Spain have certainly made their mark in this FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003. And while the squad try to keep a lid on the pre-match nerves ahead of the imminent semi-final clash against Colombia, much of what ultimately happens on the pitch on Monday will have a great deal to do with Arizmendi. The Atlético de Madrid striker was thrown in at the deep end with just five minutes of normal time remaining in the match against Canada. Ten minutes later, showing amazing composure, he skipped past the flailing Canadian keeper and coolly netted the extra-time golden goal that sent the Iberians rocketing to the final four.
Friday evening in Abu Dhabi, 85 minutes on the clock. The score is one-all and Spain cannot find a way through against a Canada side battling for grim life and a place in the semi-finals. José Ufarte plays his final card and decides to send Arizmendi into the fray - for Sergio García, no less. Extra time is just five minutes old and the young striker swinging his number 14 shirt around his head has proven his coach's gamble right.
"Scoring a golden goal in those circumstances makes me happy beyond words. You dream of this sort of thing every night. Imagine what it's like when it really happens!" says the blue-eyed, beanpole striker. "I'm never going to forget this, but I want to make it clear this success is down to the whole group," he goes on.
Asked about his influences on the park, the Spanish golden boy goes straight to the top of the tree: "The Netherlands' Marco van Basten is who I most play like. If he were around today, I could copy even more of his things." Arizmendi was quick to share his recent joy with his loved ones: "The first thing I did when we got back to the dressing room was ask the delegate for a phone so I could call my dad. My family has a hard time of it when I'm so far away. They said it was perfect timing and told me to keep up the good work."
Arizmendi has double the reasons to be overjoyed. The boy, who had only had 15 minutes to prove himself in the tournament before the quarter-finals, knows opportunities to show what he is made of come few and far between with Sergio García in the squad: "It's really hard to get a game when there's a striker of his quality around. That's why I have to make the most of these chances."
Next step, ColombiaThe match against Canada is barely hours old, but the striker is already analysing Spain's next tie, the semi-final against Colombia: "I haven't seen much of them, but they're a handy side by all accounts. They have talented, experienced players, which means it'll be a very tough game, but we all want to reach the Final. And what's more, we want it to be against Argentina so we can get even for what happened in the opening match," says Arizmendi.
Someone else keen to talk about the fast-approaching clash against theCafeteros is Spanish coach José Ufarte: "Colombia are a very serious team. They have some extremely gifted players that are turning out for first division sides in their domestic league."
"If we want to beat them, we'll have to keep up what we've been doing so far in the tournament. We’re going into the game with our confidence running high and with hopes of reaching the Final," the coach went on.
One Spaniard that will not be on Ufarte's team sheet in the decisive tie is Vitolo. The Iberians' defensive linchpin was given his marching orders against Canada and has no other choice but to watch Monday's game from the sidelines. "To tell you the truth, I've got no regrets at all. The fouls came about because of how the game was going and there's nothing more to it. I'll be there, cheering on whoever is in my place. We're all desperate to defend the Spanish colours," he reasoned.
Andrés Iniesta got on the score sheet again against Canada and, unlike after previous games, was able to leave the stadium without an icepack to soothe his battered pins: "We're a step closer on this long road. We're all dreaming about lifting the trophy now, and we believe we can do it. We're on the right track."