In his journey from the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Fuerte Apache to English club Manchester City, Carlos Tevez has had to battle every inch of the way, frequently overcoming adversity to shine in one of the world’s top leagues. Those selfsame fighting qualities have also stood him in good stead on the international stage, and are helping him perform with distinction at South Africa 2010.
“It’s impossible to leave him out of the starting line-up boys,” said national coach Diego Maradona on the eve of the opening game with Nigeria, answering the media’s queries about Tevez’s inclusion. “What do you want me to do? He’s playing so well. He’s in electric form at the moment.” Four games later and El Apache has answered all the doubters, scoring twice against Mexico on Sunday evening to add further weight to Maradona’s argument.
“I’m better prepared than ever for this tournament and fortunately the results are there for everyone to see,” he said after helping sink the Mexicans at Soccer City. “I’ve shown I’m not dead.”
Tevez’s two-goal salvo caps quite a turnaround in his fortunes and comes just three months after admitting his form was not good enough to warrant a place in the national side. The Manchester City forward sent his team into the lead against the Mexicans, heading home at the end of a move he had started with Lionel Messi, and then all but settling the game seven minutes into the second half with a spectacular strike from outside the area.
“I needed a game like that,” he said after being named the Budweiser Man of the Match. “Diego [Maradona] told me he wanted me to play more as a forward and to not drop deep like a midfielder, but tracking back is something that comes naturally to me.”
As well as his brace, Tevez also ran tirelessly for his side and linked up well with his team-mates before being substituted by Juan Sebastian Veron. It was a change he did not appear to enjoy making: “I shouldn’t have pulled a face when I came off but nobody likes being substituted when they’re playing well. That said, I’d like to make my apologies public now: my team-mates shouldn’t have to see me looking annoyed.”
Revenge on the menu?
Carlitos is one of the survivors from the team that was knocked out by the host nation at Germany 2006. Yet with Argentina through to a quarter-final rematch with the Germans, his main objective now is not to gain revenge on the three-time champions but to get more time on the pitch than he enjoyed four years ago.
“I give absolutely everything for this jersey and I run my socks off on the pitch just to keep my place,” added the man of the moment. “This is the best form I’ve ever been in for the national side and I hope to keep this going for a long time yet. It’s going to be a great game against the Germans but we shouldn’t be looking on it as a chance for revenge. We need to take it easy and learn from the mistakes we made in 2006.”
In cementing his position as the ideal partner for Lionel Messi in the Albiceleste attack, Tevez has also earned the admiration of his team-mates. “He can win you a game in a single move,” said central defender Nicolas Burdisso, while Mexico keeper Oscar Perez had cause to regret the Argentinian livewire’s hand in events in Johannesburg: “He finished the game off with a tremendous goal.”
All in all not a bad night’s work for the kid from the back streets of Buenos Aires.