Over the last four days, Mexico goalkeeper Jose Rodriguez has had enough highs and lows to last a lifetime. After scoring an own goal in his team's opening defeat to Switzerland, he went from villain to hero in the next match, producing some stunning saves in a narrow 1-0 win over mighty Brazil to get El Tri's Group B campaign back on track.
"The night after our first match was a very long one for me. I know that anyone can make a mistake, but I had high hopes, and I was gutted after what happened," he admits to FIFA.com. "Luckily, I had great support from both my team-mates and my family, who called me at the hotel to offer their encouragement. They told me I had great ability, as otherwise I wouldn't be on the team. I wanted a chance to redeem myself, and thankfully I didn't have long to wait."
That support certainly worked wonders, as the young Chivas Guadalajara goalkeeper took to the field ready to prove himself against Brazil and finished the game with a clean sheet. "I was determined not to concede against Brazil. I told my team-mates that if they made sure we scored, we would win, as I knew I wasn't going to be beaten," he said.
But keeping his word was no easy task. First he had to produce a flying one-handed save to keep out Coutinho's rasping shot, and then, with Mexico leading 1-0, needed lightning reflexes to block a close-range effort from Felipinho. For Mexico coach Jose Luis Gonzalez China, the young shot-stopper's performance came as no surprise. "I knew that the own goal the other day was down to poor play as a team. Jose is a great goalkeeper, I know him very well and I knew he would perform. He put in a spectacular performance against Brazil, I'm delighted for him," he told FIFA.com.
Rodriguez's beginnings between the posts help to explain his bright personality. He tells the story of how at the tender age of five, this fan of Oswaldo Sanchez and Gianluigi Buffon had a fight with one of his classmates at school. "I was angry with a boy who played as a forward, and the only way I could stop him from winning was to save all his shots. That was the start of my career," he grins.
Twelve years later, he was at it again, this time against Coutinho, Neymar and company. "I owe my performance today to all the players and coaches, who in barely two days gave me the confidence to pick myself up and take on one of the best teams in the world. Footballers have to understand that we all make mistakes. Nestor De la Torre [Editor's note: Mexico's Director of National Teams] told me that great players aren't the ones that stay at the top, but the ones who triumph in the face of adversity. And he's right," says Rodriguez, whose ambition is to play for Chelsea in England.
Young Rodriguez certainly has the confidence to achieve that goal, but his more immediate objective is to lift the trophy at Nigeria 2009: "We're playing Japan next, with the same aim as when we first arrived here - to be champions. If we win, we'll be into the knockout stages and from there we'll take it match by match to achieve our aim. Our defeat is now behind us." The same can be categorically said about that unfortunate own goal...