Pacheco: I was always prepared
© AFP

Locating a Colombian who has never heard of Fernando Pacheco is akin to locating a Colombian who has never tasted coffee. The man in question did not, after all, earn renown exclusively in one field. He is an actor, journalist and announcer. He was a national table tennis champion and a professional boxer. He is an avid charity worker who has participated in televised lion taming and bullfighting for good causes. He is, indubitably, one of the most famous people in Colombia.

When Fernando Pacheco strolled through El Dorado International Airport in Bogota last month, however, nobody knew who he was. For this was not the aforementioned naturalised Colombian who was born in Valencia, but a namesake who came into the world about 600 kilometres away. This Fernando Pacheco was solely Spanish and arriving to serve his country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.


His anonymity owed to the fact he was among the vast minority of players in Colombia to have never made a first-team appearance at club level and that he occupied the No21 jersey - the highest in Julen Lopetegui's squad - with first-choice goalkeeper Aitor in the No13 and Alex in the No1.

Pacheco duly sat on the bench as Spain beat Costa Rica 4-1 in their opener. An injury to Aitor nevertheless left Lopetegui with a choice ahead of La Roja's next match against Ecuador. He went with Pacheco. 

“I came to this tournament really wanting to play, but of course it seemed unlikely that I would get a lot of, if any, action,” the Real Madrid man explained to FIFA.com. “However, I did my best in training and made sure I was always 100 per cent in case I was called upon. Fortunately I was.”

Pacheco didn't let himself down. He made seven saves, including two superb ones from Juan Govea and Edson Montano, en route to a 2-0 victory. “It was a confidence boost to come in and keep a clean sheet,” the keeper said.

The Badajoz native played in the first half of the meeting with Australia, but with Spain leading 5-1 and all but sure of top spot in Group C, he was replaced by Alex. Pacheco was back between the sticks for the Round-of-16 showdown with Korea Republic, and the consensual forecast that he would have little to do in Manizales proved wildly inaccurate.

I hope to keep a clean sheet and help Spain go on to the semi-finals.
Fernando Pacheco, Spanish goalkeeper

Spain were unable to score during 120 minutes in which the South Koreans forced the 19-year-old into two excellent saves. A shoot-out ensued. The last time these countries had collided on penalties, Korea Republic eliminated Spain from the 2002 FIFA World Cup™. 

“I didn't think about that,” Pacheco said. “Penalties are always very nerve-racking, and given that Spain were the favourites to win the tie, there was even more pressure on us. I just tried hard to concentrate on what I had to do: save shots from the spot.”

Both sides scored their first two penalties, before Koke's miss handed the Asians an edge heading into their third attempt. Pacheco, however, dived to his left to deny Lee Ki Je and leave it at 2-2. And after it went into sudden death, Kim Kyung Jung fired the ball over the crossbar to earn Spain a 7-6 shoot-out victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

Pacheco explained: “Penalties are a lottery. We could have gone out. Our dream could have been over. It was so tense. It was such a relief to win the shoot-out.”

Pacheco is likely to have his hands full on Sunday. Brazil, indeed, have registered 20.5 shots per game during their four games in Colombia. The modest Spaniard is nevertheless relishing the chance to pit his reflexes against Philippe Coutinho, Oscar, Henrique and Co.

Brazil are a great team,” Pacheco said. “They have so many brilliant attacking players, so I expect to be busy. They are wonderful at creating opportunities, and they have so many players who can score from distance too. But I hope to keep a clean sheet and help Spain go on to the semi-finals.

"Losing to this Brazil side would not be a disgrace, but we didn't come here for anything less than the trophy. We're up against one of the top teams, maybe the most difficult opponents, in the quarters, but we're confident we can play our own game and get the victory.”