Trellez on the glory trail

Ask any young player who is the offspring of a well-known footballer about how they got into the game, and more often than not they will tell you how the old man played an instrumental part in getting their careers off the ground.

But as young Colombian goalscorer Santiago Trellez tells, there are always exceptions to the rule. "To begin with, neither of my parents wanted me to be a footballer. They wanted me to study instead," he explains. "There was a tournament in my neighbourhood San Lorenzo de Envigado one day though, and I told my grandmother I really wanted to play. So she took me along and that's how it all started."

Maria Eugenia, Santiago's maternal grandmother and key accomplice, takes up the story. "His parents were not at all keen on Santi playing, but he was so excited I decided to take him along. He was only five at the time and his father didn't like the idea at all. He said that he'd learnt the game by playing barefoot in the street and that it was very tough to make a career out of it."

The father in question is John Jairo Trellez, the celebrated striker who surged to prominence with Colombia and Atletico Nacional of Medellin in the 1980s and 90s. Nicknamed La Turbina(The Engine) in recognition of his blistering turn of speed, Trellez Sr is Atletico's second-highest scorer of all time with 116 goals, and was a vital component of the side that claimed a maiden Copa Libertadores triumph for Colombian football in 1989.

As Trellez Jr explains, when his illustrious father eventually came round to the idea, he asked only one thing of him. "He said I shouldn't play just for the sake of it, but to do as well as I could. He's the first one to give me constructive criticism these days, and naturally I pay attention to what he says. I've seen videos of him and I'm similar to him in some ways, like my pace, the way I move in the box and my eye for goal."

On the goal hunt
Not surprisingly for a striker, goals are the only thing on Santiago's mind here in Korea. "We were drawing 3-3 with Germany in our opening game and I missed a fantastic chance late on," he laments. "I think about it every night when I go to bed. If I'd put it away we'd be through now."

The rangy 17-year-old finally slaked his goal thirst with the second of his team's five goals against Trinidad and Tobago in their following match. "I was absolutely delighted to get my first goal, but now I've got to concentrate on converting more of the chances that come my way. I want to be the top scorer at the World Cup," he declares, aiming to emulate his hero Ronaldo, the adidas Golden Boot winner at Korea/Japan 2002.

As far as the team is concerned, Trellez believes there is also room for improvement there. "We are happy with what we've achieved so far, but this team has got a lot more to offer. We need to show the same kind of defensive solidity we had during the qualifiers, where we only let in five goals in eight games."

Despite respecting forthcoming opponents Ghana, Trellez is not losing any sleep over them. "It's sure to be an open game between two sides who'll be going for the win," he assures. "When they've got the ball they like to attack down the flanks as quickly as they can, so we'll be looking to cut them off and contain them. When they don't have it though, they don't put as much pressure on you. All the same, we need to be clever and avoid a physical game by knocking the ball around at pace and looking for openings."

On the point of joining the youth ranks at Argentina's River Plate, Trellez finally plumped for Brazilian giants Flamengo. Not that club football is his priority right now. "It's wonderful to be involved in a World Cup, and it's great to experience other cultures at such a young age. Hearing the national anthem so far away from home gives you goose pimples too."

With the afternoon siesta almost upon us, Santiago just has time for a photo with a couple of passing Togo players before listing his candidates for the title. "Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany and us. We've realised here that we've got what it takes to reach the Final and, why not, become the champions." And with that confident prediction, he heads back to his room for a well-earned snooze.