In terms of association football, the FIFA U-17 World Cup remains the only major honour Argentina have yet to win, leaving a vacant spot in the otherwise brimming trophy cabinets of the country’s FA.
Yet heading into this month’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, the reigning South American champions have every reason to be optimistic. Their squad includes the player of the tournament at April’s continental championship in Sebastian Driussi – a goalscorer already well known in Europe.
The youngster told FIFA.com that, while this competition has long been a thorn in the side for Argentina, such thoughts were not weighing on the minds of the team travelling to the Middle East: “This often comes up in discussions with team-mates and it’s always on the mind of the coaching staff. But for us it’s not a burden. We’re not feeling the pressure, we’re fired up. We realise it will be difficult but know our opponents and know how enormous the tournament. It’s a chance to go down in history.”
Step by step
Driussi netted five times in the qualifying tournament in San Luis, where Argentina emerged champions. This feat allowed the group to gel in the face of adversity following a bad start on home soil, and they are now looking ahead to Dubai with renewed optimism. Under the stewardship of Humberto Grondona, the team’s initial focus will be on their three Group E opponents.
“First of all, we’re looking to survive the opening phase,” explained Driussi. “It’s been drummed into us that you should never think ahead to a possible final, but rather the first match. We know the difficulties we’ll run up against, despite being in what some have called an easy group. Of course we dream of progressing and are desperate to do that. But we have to take it as it comes, step by step. Personally, I want to score as many as possible, but it would all be for nothing if we didn’t reach our targets. One step at a time,” he repeated, his feet clearly on the ground.
The striker, weighing up every aspect, went on to speak about the unity of the team: “We have an amazing group … made up of great players and fantastic lads. We’ve really come together, and that will be what matters most. We know the way we play, we’re working really hard and we’re going to give it our all to be world champions.”
The Argentinian way
Driussi is just one of many players to emerge from el potrero (the pastureland), the name the locals have for the breeding grounds of the seemingly endless supply of Argentinian footballing talent. For his part, the player sees himself as “an optimist”, saying, “I love scoring goals. I’m always pushing up, challenging, looking for opportunities. But I didn’t always line up in my current No9 position. I used to play deeper, as a No10 or second striker. I can also operate in that position, as I’ve good control, a fine shot and great ability in the air.”
The 5’10 striker started in the junior ranks of River Plate, with whom he recently won the U-17 Club World Cup in Madrid, following victories over Atletico Madrid, Sampdoria and Barcelona, amongst others. Driussi was the tournament’s leading scorer with three goals, putting him on the European footballing radar. “It was amazing what we achieved with the River lads, but I’m now fully focused on Argentina and the upcoming World Cup. It’s what I have been waiting for,” he insisted.
And such is his excitement that, despite being initially reserved, Sebastian made his priorities clear. “I’m sure that good things will come as I go on through my career. I’ve always thought that I would make my debut with the River first-team – something I’m still waiting for – win the title with the club I love and then, of course, consider playing in Europe. But my dream, my real dream, is to become a world champion with Argentina, and I’m ready to fight for that in the United Arab Emirates.”