Argentina's Erik Lamela backed up his consequential hype with a scintillating, match-winning performance against Mexico in their FIFA U-20 World Cup opener. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder thrilled throughout and scored the only goal to send La Albiceleste top of Group F, two points above England and Korea DPR, who drew 0-0 earlier today.
There was a nice surprise for all spectators just before kick-off, and an unpleasant one for those caped in blue and white stripes: a combination of heavy downpour and sun had caused a picturesque rainbow to overlook the Estadio Atanasio Girardot, while the name of 18-year-old sensation Juan Iturbe was unexpectedly missing from Walter Perazzo's starting XI.
But if one of Argentina's two mega-prospects was prevented from showcasing his imperial class, the other made up for it. Indeed Lamela's first touch was sumptuous, which proved the prelude to a breathtaking performance.
With 19 minutes gone, the Roma new boy controlled the ball masterfully before producing an equally majestic pass, which would have put Adrian Martinez through on goal had the No14's touch not deserted him.
Mexico first threatened midway through the first half. Cesar Ibanez tricked his way past three opponents before freeing Ulises Davila, whose shot was blocked.
Lamela swiftly regained centre stage, though, skipping past his marker but firing straight at goalkeeper Damian Martinez. Argentina dominated the last ten minutes of the half territorially, but were unable to trouble the Mexico No1.
Much to the delight of the Albiceleste fans, Iturbe began the second half, replacing Matias Laba. Mexico, for their part, withdrew Saul Villalobos for Carlos Orrantia.
Iturbe took only a minute to demonstrate his danger, outsprinting the Mexican backline but firing his shot wide. However, Argentina were given a huge scare on 48 minutes when, after a Davila shot was blocked, Alan Pulido bundled the ball home, only to be ruled offside.
Iturbe, exciting the crowd every time he received possession, came close on 65 minutes, but although his strike had the power, it narrowly lacked sufficient accuracy. The same player then blasted a shot wide after wonderfully working himself into space.
Argentina finally made the breakthrough their play merited on 70 minutes. Lamela broke down the middle, cleverly held off his marker and, despite the pressure of three adversaries, struck the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Martinez almost made it 2-0 soon afterwards, but his 20-yard piledriver came crashing back off the post.
Content with the one-goal cushion, Argentina kept the ball sensibly for the remainder of the match. They had got what they wanted in the form of three precious points. And witnesses to Lamela's display had got a firm thumbs up to the hype that suggests he has the potential to become a true superstar of the future.