Santander’s trophy dream

Two of the pillars of modern management theory are efficiency and effectiveness. One serviceable definition of effectiveness would be "doing the right things," whereas efficiency involves "doing things right".

Of all the teams at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, Paraguay have come closest to a living embodiment of these highly desirable qualities. In their three Group A fixtures, the South Americans scored just twice, but still eased into the Round of 16 as runners-up in the section. 

We might also justifiably apply the epithet to striker Federico Santander. The man in the Paraguay number 11 jersey scored both goals in the 2-1 win over hosts Egypt. Taken together with goalless stalemates against Italy and Trinidad and Tobago, a win and two draws sufficed for a berth in the next stage. "We're over the moon because we've hit our initial target. But you ain't seen nothing yet," Santander told, making no apologies for his team's minimalist approach as they go in search of the ultimate triumph.

"Naturally, my dream is to win the trophy. It would be a stunning success for my country and for me. It's a totally new tournament from this moment in time, it's do-or-die in every match. This will sort the real contenders from the rest. We believe in ourselves, especially if we carry on the way we've started."

We're over the moon because we've hit our initial target. But you ain't seen nothing yet
Federico Santander, Paraguay forward.

Paraguay will now seek a way past Round of 16 opponents Korea Republic. "Korea are a tough proposition. They're quick, and they pass the ball well. We'll have to concentrate hard throughout the match," Santander warned. However, he believes the attributes shown by his team in Egypt so far will ultimately bring victory.

"We're really strong at the back and we play a good pressing game, starting with me at the front. And we never give up. Our stoppage-time victory over Egypt when we were a man down is the best proof of that," the goal-getter pointed out, although he does see areas for improvement: "We have to pose more of a threat in the final third. A lot of the responsibility for that rests on my shoulders, and we're working hard on it."

Santander, who operates as a traditional target man, cannot be faulted for his own prodigious work-rate. "I'm a powerful centre-forward and I'm good in the air. I can play with my back to goal and lay the ball off to team-mates coming through from midfield," the 18-year-old explained.

Already a tall young man at a tender age, Santander's build and style of play are not a million miles away from his sporting hero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. "He's my idol," the Paraguayan admitted, before briefly dropping his guard. "I just wish I was as skilful as him," he added with a sheepish grin. Santander, who started playing as a five-year-old with local outfit Escuela de Futbol San Pedro, might yet end up turning out for one of the Sweden international's former clubs.

After starring at a junior tournament last year for his current club Guarani, the Paraguay hitman caught the eye of scouts sent by Serie A champions Inter Milan, and has twice been for trials in northern Italy. "It was an amazing experience. I think I took the chance on offer, and I'm hoping one thing leads to another now," the visibly proud Santander said. "But for now, I'm totally focused on doing as well as I can with my team at this tournament, and we'll see what happens after that."

Whichever way you look at it, Santander is doing the right things, and doing them right. This blend of efficiency and effectiveness could well see the striker and his team go a very long way indeed.