The FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 has already thrown up its fair share of promising youngsters with bright futures, something the Argentina defenders can certainly vouch for. That the South Americans enjoyed such an uncomfortable Group C debut against Syria can be put down to the dribbling skills of diminutive front man Mohammad Abadi. Indeed it was only the woodwork that prevented the elusive striker from capping a quicksilver performance with a goal.
Following a largely anonymous first-half showing against Miguel Tojo's men, Abadi served notice of his huge potential barely seven minutes after the restart. Receiving the ball out on the right flank, the featherweight forward shaped to cut inside his marker only to deceive him by haring off down the wing.
From that point on the Syrian proved a thorn in the Argentinian rearguard, which was increasingly powerless to intercept his runs from deep. Just one minute on from that lightning burst down the touchline Abadi almost broke the deadlock when he unleashed a cannonball drive against the bar. "Yes, it was a nice strike," he tells FIFA.com, with his coach Mohamed Aljomaa providing the impromptu translation services . "It was just a shame it didn't go in. If it had, it would have changed the game for sure."
But that was not the end of the Abadi show. Cutting in from the left later on in the half and receiving the ball from a team-mate, he bore down on Luis Ojeda only for the Albiceleste keeper to deny an almost certain goal with a brilliant stop. "I didn't reproach myself when I went to bed on Sunday. I just gave thanks to my God for inspiring me to play well in the second half," recalls the unassuming Abadi.
"Overall I think the team played well. We all agreed that we deserved to win because of the way we played in the second half. It's just a pity we couldn't convert our chances."
Braced for the Spanish threat
Born on 3 September 1990, Abadi is currently with Syrian league outfit Al-Foutusa. A fearsome striker of the ball, he professes to be more proficient with his right foot than his left, and is an ardent admirer of the Brazilian philosophy of jogo bonito. When it comes to settling down in front of the television, however, Spanish football is his entertainment of choice.
Although he aims to play in La Liga one day, such admiration is not distracting him from the immediate task in hand. "I won't be thinking about that when I run out against Spain. Our objective is to win and reach the next round." While the Spanish are sure to provide a stern test, that draw against Argentina has given Abadi and Co. even greater belief in their abilities. "For a while against Argentina we were surprised to still be level. We went at them but we couldn't get the goal. The feeling now is that we are stronger and that we can beat Spain."
Three points would put Syria on the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of a FIFA competition for the first time in the nation's history. Not that such a landmark achievement that would satisfy Abadi's thirst for success. "There's no doubt it would be tremendously important for Syrian football, but we want to reach the quarter-finals at the very least. After that, well, anything can happen."