In terms of his participation at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates at least, Mexico’s Marco Antonio Granados is something of a unique case. The front man has played in all six of his side’s matches so far but has racked up only 106 minutes of playing time in the process. That does not mean to say, however, that he has not been an important figure for El Tri, particularly in their last two outings.
Incisive and elusive against Brazil in the quarter-finals and deadly against Argentina in the semis, Granados is on a high - though he is not about to get carried away: “We haven’t won anything yet. We’ve still got one step to go,” as he explained to FIFA.com.
Well-built, 6'0'' tall and very strong in the air, Granados is a lethal finisher for his club side Chivas Guadalajara, which makes it all the more surprising that he started out as a goalkeeper: “It didn’t last long, though,” he said, laughing. “I soon realised that the other penalty box was where I wanted to be.”
The youngster has made the most of his limited opportunities at UAE 2013, coming on against Brazil to win the free-kick that led to his side’s goal, and then scoring late on to kill off Argentina in Tuesday’s semi-final. “It was thanks to God that I got the chance to score in the last few minutes,” said the teenager from Manzanillo, Colima. “I felt so happy when I put it away.”
It was a strange game because it didn’t start off too badly for us.
In his opinion, the key to Mexico’s defeat of La Albiceleste was their ability to stay calm: “We didn’t get involved with them. We just played our own game and focused on the things we know how to do and which we’ve been working on for a long time, contesting every ball. We haven’t lost sight of our objective for a single minute.”
With Friday’s final against Nigeria in Abu Dhabi fast approaching, restraint is the name of the game for the in-form Mexicans, as Granados underlined: “We’re happy but we haven’t really done anything yet. We’ve still got to take that last big step. We know we have to stay focused and remain confident in ourselves.”
A new story
The Nigerians also provided the opposition in Mexico’s opening match of the competition, surprising everyone by inflicting a crushing 6-1 defeat on the defending champions, a result that remains very fresh in Granados’ mind. Delighted to be facing the Africans in the final, he said: “I wanted Nigeria to make it because we’ve got a score to settle from that first game. We’ll be going out there to win.”
Looking back on Los Aztecas’ false start, he added: “It was a strange game because it didn’t start off too badly for us. We were only a goal down at half-time and we felt we could pull level. But then we went and made a few mistakes in the second half, just a few little errors. In any case, it really helped us sort out where we were going wrong, and luckily we had the time to do it.”
That harsh lesson now belongs to the past, and Granados is looking nowhere but forward. “This is going to be a totally different game to that one because there’s nothing less than the world title at stake,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll be going out there feeling overconfident and we won’t be feeling inferior in any way either. It’s a whole new story. It’s totally different.”
Mexico coach Raul Gutierrez thinks highly of the Chivas striker, and it would be no surprise to see him feature in El Tri's starting line-up on Friday.
Whether he starts or not, Granados is determined to stay calm, though he is unable to resist picturing how the big day might turn out for him: “Now that the final’s coming up I’ve got all these dreams swimming around my head. First of all, I want to play. I hope to God that I get the chance to play in such an important match. And if I can get on the scoresheet, then that would just be the ultimate. Like I always say, dreaming doesn’t cost anything, does it?”