Tonight's semi-final between Chile and Argentina will be no ordinary game for Cristopher Toselli. La Rojita's keeper, still only 19, is just five minutes short of the tournament record of 484 unbeaten minutes set by Brazil's Claudio Taffarel. If the Universidad Catolica custodian does smash the record tonight and frustrate Sergio Aguero and Co, then he and his countrymen will have every chance of making the final of the competition for the first time in their history.
"It was a group of Chilean journalists who first told me I could break that record, and I must say it was very satisfying to know. I'm just a few minutes short of the mark right now," he told FIFA.com. The goalkeeper has been invincible since his side began their Canadian adventure on July 1, a total of 480 minutes thus far, and he needs just five more minutes unbeaten against the Albiceleste this evening to surpass the total set by Taffarel at USSR 1985.
"I remember Taffarel very well: he was a goalkeeper who achieved historic feats in world football. Naturally, it would be great to break his record, but only as an inspiration to try to follow in his footsteps," the player insists. That said, this fan of Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon is not getting distracted by all the attention, preferring instead to remain focused on his side's ultimate objective: "What's really important is that we win. It doesn't matter if it's 9-8 or 3-2, just as long as we reach the final."
From poacher to gamekeeper
In one of those ironies that football often throws up, Toselli initially had little interest in goalkeeping, preferring instead to wreak havoc in opposition penalty areas. "It was my father who first took me to play football, and I used to play up front. I was actually quite good, although not sufficiently so to make a career of it obviously. And that's why I turned to goalkeeping," he says with a laugh.
Now, a few years on, his agility, reflexes and solid shot-stopping have made him the 'Mr Invincible' of Canada 2007, although it is not a term the young Chilean would use himself. "I didn't concede many goals during the qualifying tournament, when we almost always kept clean sheets. That gave me a lot of confidence, and I relaxed more, safe in the knowledge that we were doing a good job. Carrying that form over into the World Cup has come as a bit of surprise, and I just hope we can maintain it against Argentina!"
As fate would have it, the Albiceleste attack Toselli will be facing in Toronto will be led by the formidable striking duo of Sergio Aguero and Maximiliano Moralez, two players very much in the running for the adidas Golden Shoe award for top-scorer. "I'm not one to over-analyse my rivals, although I obviously know what they're capably of. I enjoy facing players who have international pedigree like these. When people asked me if I had a preference for Mexico or Argentina [in the semis], I said Argentina. The thought of facing big-name players motivates me more," says the keeper, who was playing down the significance of facing opponents he knows so well.
"I don't know if the fact that we met during the South American qualifiers is significant or not. Every game is different, and once the ball gets rolling all the pre-match talk becomes irrelevant. It's important that we stand tall and take the game to them. Only that way will we make the final and move a step closer to my dream of becoming world champion."