Despite the pressure that 37,000 fans in the stadium and millions looking on around the world brings, Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo was composure personified when tucking away his side's winning penalty in the Round of 16 success over Japan.
"It was just like taking a penalty back home in my neighbourhood," said the Benfica man in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, which took place shortly after "the most important goal of my career" had put La Albirroja in the quarter-finals of the global showpiece for the very first time. "It’s a great moment for all of us, our national team has never achieved something like this before," said Cardozo, whose coolly taken spot-kick settled the first shoot-out of this year's finals by a score of 5-3, after the game had finished 0-0 after 120 minutes.
"We're very pleased about what we've done today and personally I'm also very satisfied," added the rangy forward, who came on for Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz four minutes into the extra period.
In fine form for his club side over the course of 2009/10, racking up nine goals in the UEFA Europa League and 26 in the domestic championship, 'Tacuara' Cardozo has had relatively limited involvement here at South Africa 2010. Indeed, though he has featured in all four games, he has spent just 114 minutes on the pitch.
"Cardozo isn't as established at national-team level as he is at Benfica but, even so, when extra time was over he came up to me and asked not just to take a penalty, but to take the fifth one," said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino. "When a player does that and then takes the penalty with the aplomb he did, all you can do is take your hat off to him."
"With aplomb" is a fitting description of Cardozo's decisive kick, taken when Paraguay were leading 4-3 in the shoot-out at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. With Japan's Yuichi Komano the only player to have failed to convert, Cardozo stepped up and sent Eiji Kawashima the wrong way with a left-footed finish into the corner of the net.
"There was nothing going through my head, nothing at all. I didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever," concluded the 27-year-old from the small Paraguayan city of Doctor Juan Eulogio Estigarribia, after the tense encounter in Pretoria. Boasting such steely nerves and big-game mentality, what price a first goal in open play for Cardozo come Saturday's quarter-final against Spain?