The FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for Brazil’s Henrique. Having begun the competition on the bench, he had earned a starting berth by his side’s second game and went on to help A Seleção lift the trophy and bag the two most coveted individual awards in the process.
Indeed, clutching his winners’ medal, the adidas Golden Ball for the competition’s best player and the adidas Golden Boot as its top scorer, the Sao Paulo attacker seemed to be struggling to carry them all when he stopped to chat to FIFA.com on leaving the Estadio Nemesio Camacho 'El Campin' in Bogota. Among the topics discussed wth Brazil’s golden boy were his path to glory here in Colombia, his most memorable moments and goals at this competition, the knock he picked up in the Round of 16 and praise for team-mate Oscar – the star of the show in the 3-2 final win over Portugal.
FIFA.com: You’ve picked up three pieces of silverware in a matter of minutes. Can you even begin to describe what’s gone through your head tonight?
Henrique: It’s so exciting to be able to lift all these trophies, as well as being chosen as the best player at a competition like this and finishing top scorer too. It’s a very difficult feat. But I’d like to say that being crowned champions mattered more than anything else. Of course these individual awards are brilliant, but I came here to help the team towards their overall objective. Without this fantastic squad I wouldn’t have won anything.
You began the competition on the bench before breaking into the starting XI and playing a decisive role in the latter stages. Did you expect things to pan out like that?
You’re right, I only came off the bench late on in that opening game against Egypt. But of course this is how I really wanted things to go here, and coach Ney Franco showed a lot of faith in me from the start. He started me in our second game and I improved as the competition went on, as well as being fortunate enough to score goals against Panama, Austria, Saudi Arabia and then two against Mexico, which were decisive. I didn’t find the net today, but that’s just football.
You also suffered a serious scare when taking a knock in the game against Saudi Arabia in the Round of 16. How did you recover in time for the match against Spain in the last eight?
I had to fight really hard. Only the people here know how tough I had it. I didn’t just injure my arm, I hurt my thigh and my ankle too. I had to take injections and get treatment morning and night, because there were real doubts about me being able to play. Strikers always end up going through the mill, taking a lot of hits. Fortunately, and thanks to a lot of help from the medical staff, I managed to recover. I’m really pleased because I’ve been rewarded for all the effort I put in.
The match against Portugal was a really hard-fought affair wasn’t it?
It was very difficult. They played with a four-man backline plus two powerful defensive midfielders. They had six players who barely left their own half, so it was very difficult to pass the ball through the middle of them. I found it quite tough going too. I did get the chance to grab a goal late on but Mika, who’s an excellent keeper, ended up making the save. Fortunately everything turned out ok in the end.
How much does this title mean to you in terms of your career?
It means a great deal. I’m still young and it’s an incredible experience to win important awards like these, as well as being crowned champions of the biggest tournament for our age group. I won’t forget this final either, because we took the lead, they turned the scoreline on its head and then we came back again to win. It was very tough, but we’re proud of what we achieved. And it’s not long until the Olympics. All of us here are young enough to be involved and we’re going to keep a close eye on things. We’re hoping to be there, and why not?
You made a clean sweep of the prizes available tonight, but if you had to nominate another player for the adidas Golden Ball who would you choose?
I think I’d choose Oscar. He’s had an excellent tournament. He’s really helped the team, even though he’s played out of position, and has tracked back as well as attacked. And he supplied loads of assists, five maybe six, I don’t know. Today he got goals too. I think that he deserved the award just as much as I did. I’ve known him since youth level and the way he played here is what people can expect from him.
How were the post-title celebrations and what’s the trip back to Brazil going to be like?
Right now we’re just enjoying ourselves and having a big party (laughs). We had a big celebration in the dressing room, we’ll keep celebrating in the hotel and on the plane home and, once we’re back, we’ve already arranged a barbecue for everyone here so we can continue to savour this.