A little over a month after silencing the Camp Nou with the goal that won the Liga title for Atletico Madrid, Diego Godin was back on target with another invaluable header, this time sending Uruguay through to the last 16 at Brazil 2014 at the expense of Italy, much to the joy of the massed ranks of Celeste fans at Natal’s Arena das Dunas.
Though his main job is to stop the opposition from scoring, centre-half Godin has made a habit of finding the back of the net himself at the other end of the pitch. Aside from the two aforementioned strikes, he also headed his club into the lead in the recent UEFA Champions League final.
“Luckily I’ve been able to score some big goals this year,” he told FIFA.com after condemning the Italians to an early exit with one of his now-trademark strikes. “But I always say that you do your best for the team and that team supports you in what you do. The workrate at both Atletico and here is amazing.
“This is one of those games that defines an era. It was a dream match for us and it’s made the whole country very happy.”
It was a close-run thing for the Uruguayans, nevertheless. With only nine minutes remaining they were heading out of the tournament, having found no way through Italy’s well-drilled defence.
“We knew that was how it was going to be,” said the goalscoring stopper, who also completed all 33 of the passes he attempted against the Italians. “Italy played a good game but we held firm and kept on pushing because we were certain our chance would come.”
They all count
And come it did, after 81 minutes, with Godin rising high to meet Gaston Ramirez’s corner and power La Celeste into the last 16. “It came off my ear and my shoulder,” admitted Uruguay’s smiling saviour, who captained the side in Natal. “When I jumped I ended up facing the wrong way and I just got what I could on the ball.”
The man who usually wears the Charrúa armband is Diego Lugano, who missed today’s game through injury. On hearing the final whistle, the blond-haired defender rushed on to the pitch and made a beeline for the goal hero.
Describing the moment, an emotional Godin said: “He told me that I deserved it, that I was great and that it just had to be me. It made me feel very proud to hear the skipper say that, though everyone chipped in today.”
After scoring his title-winning goal at the Camp Nou, Godin said he understood how Alcides Ghiggia must have felt when he grabbed the winner in the decisive final match of Brazil 1950 at the Maracana. So how did today’s goal compare?
“I said that then because it was a goal that silenced a packed stadium,” he replied. “But this goal today is different. It’s hard to explain. I just feel so, so happy and so proud, which I suppose is how the whole country feels.”
He added: “We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, starting the way we did, and it was a miracle that we pulled it off in the end. Now we can start thinking about the last 16, but no further. We respect everyone but fear no one.”
With Godin prowling the penalty box at set-pieces, it is Uruguay’s opponents who are feeling the fear.