Strikers are a unique breed. Just a few minutes on the field of play is sometimes all they need to pierce a defence and make an impression. A perfect case in point is that of Argentina's Nicolas Mazzola, who has become something of a household name at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2007 on the back of two substitute appearances spanning just 74 minutes.
"That's what I'm here for," the front man explains to FIFA.com. "Naturally I do everything my coach asks me and I do my utmost to help my team-mates. But my main job is to put the ball in the back of the net. If I can do that and my team wins, then everyone's happy."
The south also exists
Born on 28 January 1990 in Viedma, a city in the province of Rio Negro, some 960 kilometres south of Buenos Aires, Mazzola showed his scoring prowess at the South American championship in Ecuador, where he notched three of his team's 13 goals. And that fine form has continued in Korea. After failing to make an entrance against Syria, Mazzola needed just 45 second-half minutes to dig his side out of a hole against Honduras with a vital double strike. "Although important goals, they were a reward for the work we all put in, not just me," he adds modestly.
Nico's two goals against the Catrachas both came from headers, which is hardly surprising given that he stands 1.86 metres tall, making him more than a handful for any 17-year-old defender. "I was always last in the line at school," he chuckles. "I don't really like defining myself but scoring goals is my business. I'm a penalty-box finisher more than anything else. I'm good in the air, I work hard, and I'm fairly useful with my right foot. But my left is just a swinger really."
After starting out with hometown club Sol de Mayo, Mazzola was spotted by a company specialising in bringing on young footballers. He left home at the age of 15 and within a year the diehard Boca Juniors fan was running out for Independiente of Avellaneda, one of Argentina's biggest clubs. "After playing there and going to watch them so much, I built up a real affection for the club. And naturally, I'm delighted to see them at the top of the league table and still unbeaten this season."
First up, Costa Rica
With the Round of 16 tie against Costa Rica just hours away, Mazzola turns his attention to the Albiceleste. "We've done quite well so far," he comments. "We didn't start too well, but we've gradually found our rhythm and we had some really good spells against Spain. What can we do to improve? Not give the ball away for a start. Generally speaking, though, the team is in pretty good shape."
While there is no mistaking his commitment to the cause, Mazzola is full of respect for the Ticos. "I've heard some people saying we're favourites to go through, but we need to be careful and keep our mouths shut, " he warns. "There are no easy teams at this stage of a competition. They've got some very pacy strikers who can break quickly on the counter."
The centre-forward, who counts Hernan Crespo, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Zlatan Ibrahimovic among his role models, is thoroughly enjoying his first FIFA World Cup, as you might expect of a wide-eyed teenager. "It's a big thing to play in a tournament like this and it's something every kid dreams of. I'm loving every moment and I know it's going to help me develop as a player and a person." And as the talismanic striker acknowledges, Argentina have designs on glory in Korea. "That's what we are aiming for. I don't think we're too far away either. We need to go one game at a time, though, starting with Costa Rica."