Rivera: I couldn't ask for more
© AFP

Mexicans are rightly proud of the artwork of Diego Rivera, the painter who amazed the world with his striking murals and whose unmistakable creations adorn many a building across the country. Over half a century after the artist’s death, namesake Edson is staking his own compelling claim for recognition, making a significant contribution to El Tri’s surge to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011.

Rivera it was who came off the bench in the first half of Saturday’s quarter-final against Colombia and scored the two goals that secured Mexico’s place in the last four, a feat that he struggled to comprehend when speaking exclusively to FIFA.com afterwards: “I dreamed about coming on against Colombia and scoring a goal, but to get two is just too much, especially as they won us the game. I couldn’t ask for more.”

It is no surprise that the Atlas goalgetter feels a little overcome by his Bogota heroics. Prior to Saturday, Rivera had been on the field of play for just 44 minutes at Colombia 2011, which made coach Juan Carlos Chavez’s decision to bring him on in place of star striker Alan Pulido just over half an hour into the Colombia match all the more surprising.

“Edson’s introduction changed the game for us,” said Tri captain Jorge Enriquez, summing up the thoughts of the entire team. “He was amazing and it shows that both the first-choice players and the subs are all at the same level.”

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to come on so soon,” commented the hero of the hour. “But I was desperate to play. The atmosphere was fantastic, and it’s a real motivator when the whole crowd’s against you. All you want to do is come on, score a goal and silence the stadium.”

Rivera did better than that, scoring midway through the second half and again with two minutes remaining to set the seal on a notable 3-1 win that crushed Colombia’s dreams of success on home soil. “I knew the first goal was going in as soon as I got my head on it,” he explained. “And for the second, I decided to hit it from a long way out because this ball moves around a lot. I thought I might be able to take the keeper by surprise, and that’s what happened.”

The atmosphere was fantastic, and it’s a real motivator when the whole crowd’s against you. All you want to do is come on, score a goal and silence the stadium.
Mexico's Diego Rivera on scoring against hosts Colombia

Mexico's Diego Rivera on scoring against hosts Colombia

One man especially grateful for Rivera’s two-goal salvo was goalkeeper Jose Rodriguez, who was at fault for the goal that brought the Colombians level at 1-1. “He jokingly thanked me in the dressing room,” said Rivera of his team-mate. “We’re a unit, though, and we’re all here to help each other.”

While it brought joy to the Mexican contingent, Rivera’s cool finishing triggered tears among the disconsolate home fans, who arrived at El Campin full of expectation and departed in solemn mood.

“They knew they were coming to see a show, an entertaining game between two evenly matched sides,” said the unrepentant Rivera. “We’re a good side and we came to win. And I think the best team came out on top.”

Unlike many of his colleagues in the Mexico squad, Rivera has yet to make his first division debut, though he has spent the last seven years with Atlas, having taken up the game at the age of six. After his match-winning outing in Bogota, however, a maiden top-flight outing with the Guadalajara side cannot be too far away.

“I hope it helps, although if I had the choice I’d like to be spotted by another team from outside Mexico. My dream is to leave the country young,” said Rivera, who describes himself as a link man who likes to hold the ball up and bring his fellow strikers into play, as you might expect of someone who lists the Barcelona trio of Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta as his footballing heroes.

Another goalscoring performance against Brazil in the semi-finals could help turn Rivera’s dream into reality, though he is well aware of the dangers the four-time champions pose: “They play really good football, they like to keep the ball and they’ve got some very skilful players. They like to attack and throw you off balance.”

Nevertheless, the No19 is confident Mexico can rise to the challenge: “We’re a team, a family, and we showed what we can do against Colombia. I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it again.”

Should they do so, Mexico and Rivera will move a step closer to fulfilling their ultimate ambition at Colombia 2011. “We want to be world champions. That’s what we came here for,” he said, ending on a defiant note.

A few more quality brushstrokes from Rivera and we could well be talking of another Mexican masterpiece in the days to come.

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