The hero for Spain against Syria, his late strike sealing all three points and La Selección's place in the Round of 16, Dani Aquino must have felt the fates were playing tricks on him when the draw for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 was made. Next up for Spain, with top spot in Group C riding on the result, are none other than Argentina, the land of his father.
This particular story has its beginnings back in 1989, when La Liga outfit Real Murcia CF moved to sign Daniel Toribio Aquino, a left-footed Argentinian forward playing for Club Atletico Banfield. The noted goal-getter had even won a couple of caps for his country's senior side under then Albiceleste coach Carlos Bilardo during qualifying for the 1990 FIFA World Cup™.
El Toro (The Bull) had caught the eye of the Murcia board thanks to his goalscoring feats in Banfield's colours, the player earning a very special place in the hearts of the Taladro faithful in the 1986/87 campaign with the goal that sealed their promotion back to the top flight.
And one year on from his transfer to European shores, on 27 July 1990 to be exact, El Toro's first son Daniel was born in Murcia.
"Yes, it's going to be a bit of a strange game for me. I've spent many holidays in Chajari, in the province of Entre Rios, the town where my dad was born. My uncles, cousins and even a few friends of mine live there," the gifted youngster tells FIFA.com. "Did I speak to my dad about the game? Yes, of course. He told me to focus on doing well for Spain and that if I'm fortunate enough to score again I should just let the mood take me."
Aquino's remarkable progress has not gone unnoticed back in
his father's home town, with the local paper having this to say
after he was called up for Korea 2007: 'The young footballer,
who has Chajari blood running through his veins, is regarded as one
of the hottest prospects on the Spanish youth scene.'
The player himself is not surprised by the warmth of feeling coming his way: "It's a very welcoming town, I really like the way of life over there. Over there everybody does their own thing; they really spoil me." This could be why the lethal front-runner has promised his grandparents to "keep the celebrations to a minimum" if he scores.
Off his own back
This year has turned out to be a landmark one for the Murcia starlet. In addition to his success on Korean soil, Aquino is currently knocking on the door of the Grana senior side. The striker scored after just 20 minutes on his first-team debut against Tenerife in June, and was invited to take part in this year's pre-season programme by head coach Lucas Alcaraz.
"When your dad is a former footballer, you run the risk of not reaching the same standards and just being known as 'somebody's son'. I think that I've been able to make my way through my own efforts so far," says the determined young forward, who has nevertheless inherited his father's nickname. "The boss and my team-mates call me Torito (Little Bull). Dad never pressured me into playing football and even now he only gives me advice if I ask for it. He tries not to interfere much."
A self-confessed fan of Fernando Torres, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dani reveals there could still be more to come from the Aquino attacking dynasty: "My 11-year-old brother Matias is a striker too, he's very strong and is also part of the Murcia youth set-up."
Loyalties with Spain
When asked about La Selección's Korea 2007 campaign, Dani's verdict is highly positive: "Listen, we've played two, won two. We've got six points and are through to the next round. Of course I'm happy with how things have gone so far. All we need now is to beat Argentina to round off a perfect group stage."
The slightly built centre-forward predicts something of a derby atmosphere for the two sides' final Group C match, "because of the two countries' status on the world football stage. Whoever wins will be able to go home after the tournament and say that 'I beat Spain' or 'I beat Argentina'."
Aquino, whose club allegiances are to Murcia and Boca Juniors, expects a very close-fought encounter: "The match will be tough, particularly because of the way Argentinian players are. For them, wearing their country's colours is the ultimate honour," he explains. "Personally I don't think the game will be settled by a wonder goal, it's more likely to be a set-piece. And I think Spain are going to win!"