“It was a beauty, wasn’t it?" Mexico forward Taufic Guarch’s response to FIFA.com’s request for a description of his long-range strike against Korea DPR is almost as telling as the beaming grin that accompanies it. His powerful shot from midway inside the opposition own half, which brushed the fingertips of the Korean goalkeeper before nestling in the net, was a major highlight for fans present at a packed Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellin on Monday.
As well as bringing spectators to their feet, the Mexicans’ second goal of their FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign helped them to avoid any nerves towards the end of a match they had been struggling to wrap up. Coming in off the back of a disappointing opening 1-0 loss to Argentina, El Tri missed numerous early opportunities against the Asians, and only went in at the break with a slender lead courtesy of a messy own goal in first-half stoppage time.
“It’s frustrating,” admitted Guarch. “During the Argentina match and the first half against Korea DPR, I had lots of chances, but I just wasn’t able to find the finish, even though I was working myself into the ground. Then everything turned on its head. I found myself in an unfamiliar position, I tried my luck without really thinking about it, and it hit the back of the net,” he explained. The moral of the story? “Maybe I need to think a bit less,” added the Tecos striker with a smile.
Something to which the 19-year-old front man has given plenty of thought is what the goal means to him, his team-mates, and the millions of Mexicans cheering them on at home.
“Every player dreams of scoring in a tournament like this one,” Guarch said. “At the time, I was delighted, but I had trouble believing what had just happened. As did my team-mates: I could see the surprise in their eyes as they rushed to congratulate me. It was a fantastic goal, and I hope my family and all our supporters back home got some pleasure from seeing it."
Describing himself as a centre-forward who “likes to hold up the ball, play off fellow strikers, get in the box and create space”, Guarch was in his element in the attack-minded formation employed by coach Juan Carlos Chavez on Monday. “We pretty much played with four up front, not just because we needed to win at all costs, but also to stay true to the tradition of Mexican football, which is to attack at all times,” Guarch explained.
The current CONCACAF U-20 champions plan on remaining faithful to this approach as they strive to reach the quarter-finals, even though a draw against final group opponents England would be enough to advance. “Playing it safe is just not in our nature, and it can easily backfire on you,” noted the Guadalajara native.
“We’d rather play our best and be disappointed with a share of the points than play for a draw and risk losing the match. That’s how we’ll reach our goal of winning the world title. Mexico have never won this tournament before – maybe we’ll be the ones to create a bit of history."
When the conversation turns to goalscoring idols, Guarch passes over the popular choices of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, instead making a case for a player whose effective and straightforward style resembled his own.
“The player that most inspired me was Jose Cardozo – a great player who was looked up to by many forwards back home,” he recounted, doubtless swayed by the huge number of goals scored by the Paraguayan striker during a fruitful decade with Mexican outfit Toluca. As for the game’s current crop of elite attackers, one stands out above the rest for Guarch: Javier Hernandez. “The top striker in the world right now has to be Chicharito,” he said.
And who, for him, might earn that label in the future? “I don’t know, but I hope it’ll be one of us. We’re lucky to have some really good forwards, but I wouldn’t want to pick just one. Maybe Ulises Davila?” he ventured modestly. In the meantime, only one Mexico forward has so far found the net at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the race to become the next Hernandez, Guarch already has a head start on his team-mates.