Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani is a man on a mission: to stamp his authority on the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. With his rangy figure and ungainly gait, the free-scoring youngster might not look like a deadly striker but his potent right foot and nose for goal speak for themselves. And despite the demands of a long, hard year that has seen him shoot to prominence on the world stage, the goalscoring youngster is hungry for success in the land of the maple leaf.
"I've experienced some wonderful things in the last few months," he tells FIFA.com with the merest of smiles. "You always work hard for things like this to happen but I'd never thought I'd achieve all this by the age of 20."
It certainly has been a busy year for Cavani. After notching 12 goals to help Danubio to the Uruguayan championship, he travelled to Paraguay with the U-20 national team for the South American championships, ending the tournament as top scorer with seven goals in nine games as the Celeste secured their ticket for North America.
But that was not all. He celebrated his birthday on 14 February in style by jetting off to Italy to sign for Serie A high fliers Palermo. "It was hard to settle in at first because I was on my own," he explains. "But when my family arrived, and I started playing things fell into place pretty quickly."
New challenges on the international scene
There was no break for the intrepid adventurer at the end of the Italian season though, Uruguay U-20 coach Gustavo Ferrin handing him the task of leading the young Charrúas to Canada, a role Cavani was delighted to accept. "I'll try to bring all the experience I've gained abroad to the job," he says, showing remarkable maturity for one so young. "The fans don't create pressure. It's up to the player to create it. I put pressure on myself because there's an entire country behind us at this World Cup."
Citing his brother Walter Guglielmone as his biggest footballing hero, he sets out his goals for the weeks ahead: "We're determined to achieve something big here by bringing the trophy back home and taking Uruguay to the top of world football. As a striker I always set myself extra objectives. Obviously I want to contribute as much as possible to the team but I also want to finish the tournament as top scorer," he explains.
Ambitious as he is, Cavani also admits to a few nerves ahead of the big event: "We all want to know how the World Cup is going to go and to see what the other teams are like. I think it's good to be a little nervous before a game, and you'd expect that because it's our opening match here and we're playing Spain too.
"We've got to keep an eye on their entire team because any one of their players can score. We've got our strengths too though, and we're very excited about this World Cup. I can tell you we will all be doing out utmost to win every game," he vows.
Facing the best
One of the challenges facing Cavani when the showdown with the European champions gets under way is how to get the better of central defender Gerard Pique, a key figure for La Roja. "The coach has already spoken to me about him. He's a tall defender and very strong apparently, but I've got used to playing in Europe and I know how to handle well-built defenders," says the elusive front man, a constant menace to defences with his mazy dribbling and willingness to shoot from all angles.
As he heads off with the rest of the team to find out how their elders are faring in the Copa America, Cavani sends out one last message to the rest of the world: "This generation has a lot to give I can tell you. We're winners and we've got several players with international experience. The team's working hard and we're feeling strong."