The mood in the Colombia camp at the FIFA U-17 World Cup
Korea 2007 is distinctly upbeat following a show of resilience and
a thrilling fightback to earn a 3-3 draw with Germany in their
opening Group F fixture, throwing the door to the last sixteen wide
Cafeteros found themselves 3-1 down early in the second
half, but a stirring late rally brought them two goals and a
"It was a very important result for us and a great display too. We've come from behind against a strong team like Germany and earned ourselves a draw, and all this at a World Cup," overjoyed coach Eduardo Lara told FIFA.com in his post-match analysis.
This Thursday, Lara's boys take on Trinidad and Tobago at the Cheonan Sports Complex knowing that a win would hand them pole position in the fight for a place in the Round of 16. "They're difficult opponents," argued the experienced coach in the build-up to the meeting with the young Soca Warriors, defeated 4-1 in their opening match against Ghana.
The Colombians will be favourites on Thursday, but Lara knows all too well that no team at a FIFA U-17 World Cup can be dismissed with a wave of the hand: "Standards are very high at this World Cup. Every team which has made it to the start wants to give a good account of themselves and win the trophy."
The Colombia tactician is contemplating changes to his line-up as his side go in search of a maximum return against Trinidad. "We still have options. Junior Ramero was struggling but he's now fully fit. I favour the team we fielded for the South American championships," Lara explained. At the March event in Ecuador, the young Cafeteros garnered a chorus of praise as they claimed an impressive second place behind Brazil.
Colombia's most vital player in Ecuador was six-goal striker Cristian Nazarith. The robust centre-forward was his team's saviour against Germany, first coolly slotting home a penalty to reduce the arrears, before levelling the scores with a stunning long-range strike. "Obviously, I'm delighted about scoring two vital goals at a World Cup. It was a tough match against very strong opponents," Nazarith told FIFA.com.
After tormenting the German defence at times on Monday, the burly striker is hoping for similar success against T&T, although he knows it will be far from easy. "It'll be a tough nut to crack," the Colombia No7 opined. "They have some big lads at the back and a dangerous forward line. We'll need to battle away, stay on the move and create chances, which hopefully we'll then take."
Victory would take the Colombian U-17s to within touching distance of their initial target: a place in the last 16. Regarded by many experts as realistic trophy contenders, Eduardo Lara's players have set their sights high in Korea. "Naturally, we want to go as far as we can," Nazarith confirms. "We're like a family here and we all share a common goal."
The young striker has set himself a personal target too. Asked which club he dreams of representing one day, he answers like a shot: "Chelsea!" That may come across as a hopelessly optimistic view of an uncertain future, but the impossible happens frequently enough in football - and should Cristian Nazarith's career continue in the manner it has begun, nothing whatsoever can be ruled out.