When Tabare Viudez scored his 84th-minute wonder goal against England to give Uruguay a late victory over the Three Lions, he was heralded as a hero by the country's football fans and media. However, just four weeks earlier, the 20-year-old midfielder had been forced to come to terms with a crushing blow; namely that AC Milan had released him from his contract, together with fellow Uruguayan Mathias Cardacio.
A statement issued by the club simply read: "Thanking them for what they have shown during their experience with the Rossoneri, Milan wish the two young footballers all the best for their future." In one sentence, the elation of receiving praise from Carlo Ancelotti following a pre-season performance and coming on as a substitute for David Beckham in a Serie A match just six months earlier seemed a distant memory.
"I was there for a year," he told FIFA.com. "They decided to terminate my contract, and that was it. Now I don't have a team. If I end up going back to Uruguay, I'll try and play better so I can dream about playing in a foreign country once more. One day, I'd like to go back to Milan with more experience. I think that with experience, I'd deal with the whole situation better. Then I'm confident that I would prove to them what I can really do."
Yet Viudez, who played two matches for Uruguay at the last FIFA U-20 World Cup, is certain that his experiences at the San Siro made him a better player. "There, I was training alongside Kaka, Ronaldinho, [Gennaro] Gattuso and [Andrea] Pirlo," he said. "But if I had to pick one who really impressed me, it would be Pirlo. Besides those players, Alexandre Pato also impressed me a lot. He is as young as me and, really, he is such a great player, so strong and good with the ball."
Viudez showed his own qualities following his 60th-minute introduction on Saturday evening, especially in the way he took his goal. "[Jonathan] Urretaviscaya put in a great cross for me," he recalled. "Well, it was a very high ball and it caught me a bit by surprise, so the only thing I could do was to volley it. The ball went past the keeper, but for me, it seemed to take an age to reach the back of the net!
"It was one of the best goals I've scored in my career, but I don't know if it was the best. The first goal I scored in the [Uruguayan] First Division was also pretty special for me. I cut into the middle and I ran towards the goalie leaving lots of players behind before slotting it into the net."
"It was a fantastic goal, but it wasn't a surprise for me because Tabare can do that type of thing," smiled coach Diego Aguirre. "It could turn out to be the goal of the tournament, because it was perfectly executed. But it will always be special for me, as it was the first goal for our team in the tournament. It was an emotional moment for all of us."
Viudez, whose middle name is 'Uruguay', is now hoping his coach will give him a starting berth in their next match against Uzbekistan on Tuesday evening. However, even if he is selected, the man from Montevideo knows that his place is far from in their remaining fixtures.
"You have to give it all for the team and for your team-mates in order to earn your place in the starting 11," he said. "What's more, once you are in, you can't relax, you have to do that every time.
"I just hope we can progress in this tournament step by step, taking one match at a time. As I always say, 'you'll get there step by step.' Hopefully, we'll go far by being steady and focusing on each match as it comes."