In the minutes that followed Argentina's 3-1 defeat by Japan in their final Group B game at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, the players in the Albiceleste dressing room could be seen asking each other the same question again and again: 'What needs to happen for us to still qualify?' With just three points in the bag and a goal difference of -4, the simplest answer was a mathematical miracle.
Shortly afterwards, however, once the results from Group A became known, the mood in the Argentinian camp swiftly shifted from despair to hope. Twenty-four hours later, that hope had solidified into a last-16 date with England on 30 June in Pachuca. “You suffer more when you’re on the outside looking in, it was a very nervy period,” midfielder Brian Ferreira told FIFA.com. “Some of the lads didn’t even want to know what was happening in the match between Rwanda and Canada. But God gave us a second chance and now it’s up to us to take advantage of it.”
Ferreira, brought off the bench at the interval against the Japanese, with his side already two goals down, was unable to drag his side back level, though he did net a stunning consolation strike from fully 40 metres with just three minutes remaining. “I’ve watched it again and yes, it was really me!” he said with a grin. “In our previous attack I’d seen their keeper come off his line, so in our next move I got a shot off as soon as I could. To be honest, at first I thought it was going wide. It’s just a shame it came so late on.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Ferreira made the leap as a boy, directly from the playing fields of Moreno in Greater Buenos Aires, to the youth ranks of Argentinian heavyweights Velez Sarsfield. One of the youngsters brought in for pre-season training with the Fortín first team in January this year, Ferreira made such an impression he was invited to train with the seniors for the remainder of the campaign. And though he was not called upon to play, he was delighted with the club’s conquest of the Clausura 2011 crown.
“I didn’t have a chance to celebrate because we were travelling over here, but the squad deserved it due to the effort they put in,” said the midfield creator, a fervent admirer of his countryman and fellow schemer Juan Roman Riquelme. “The enormous gulf in class aside, I’m more direct than he is and I start my attacks from deeper. But I’d dearly love to have his vision and passing ability!” added Ferreira, who is wearing La Albiceleste’s coveted No10 shirt in Mexico.
Though they did squeeze through to the knockout stage, how does Ferreira explain a Group B campaign featuring two defeats and just one win? “We’re not making excuses, it’s this simple: things just didn’t work out for us out on the pitch,” said the playmaker, who has made two appearances thus far. “We’ve come up against some well-drilled teams and haven’t been able to perform to the best of our ability. This squad’s not afraid of criticism and that helps us to grow and stick together. Everyone has to step up to the plate.”
Next up is a match between two nations with an abundance of history between them, as Ferreira is well aware: “This is a historical classic. Seeing as everybody wants to beat Argentina anyway, the English will want to do so even more. "But we mustn’t let the pressure or nerves get to us, because if we do things will go wrong. They’re good at the back, so the key will be in keeping the ball off them: if we can control possession then as the match progresses, gaps will open up.”
As the conversation concluded, Ferreira underlined just how determined he and his team-mates are to put their disappointing group-phase displays behind them. “We know we’ve got a strong enough squad to do Argentina proud and that we’ll get no more second chances: either we win and we stay or we lose and take the next flight home. This is a great opportunity for us to turn things around, and we’re going to sweat blood for the shirt.”