Juan Quintero announced himself to planet football at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he had the honour of scoring the goal of the tournament. One year on, the pint-sized 21-year-old midfielder has stepped up a level, slotting home the winner in his side’s 2-1 defeat of Côte d’Ivoire on his 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ debut. Now regarded as one of the hottest properties in the game, the rising Colombia star spoke to FIFA.com about the joys of playing on the biggest stage of them all.
“Obviously I’m delighted with my debut,” he said. “I was desperate to get out there, and happily for me everything worked out. I feel very proud about coming on and scoring, though the most important thing was for us to get the win that takes us into the last 16.”
Discussing the sweet left-footed strike that gave his side all three points against the Elephants, Quintero said: “I’m grateful to God for scoring such a good goal. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, but it’s good to be grounded. I wouldn’t have got that goal without James (Rodriguez) winning the ball back and Teo (Gutierrez) putting me through. But obviously I’m incredibly happy about it.”
We’re playing well, no doubt about it, but I really feel we can get even better.
As well as clinching Los Cafeteros’ place in the Round of 16, Quintero’s goal also ensured they won back-to-back games at the World Cup for the very first time, all without the injured Radamel Falcao. Little wonder, then, that Colombia’s army of fans in Brazil are so happy.
“This team has a lot of personality and we know how to dig deep when we have to,” he explained. “We showed that against Côte d’Ivoire. They were tough opponents and beating them has given the whole squad a big lift.”
The Estadio Mane Garrincha in Brasilia was a sea of yellow last Thursday, and a similar scene is expected at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba on Tuesday, when the Colombians take on Japan in their third and final match in Group C.
Full of confidence
So noticeable and vociferous has the Cafetero support been in Brazil that Quintero was moved to say: “It’s like we’re playing in Barranquilla. The fans are 100 percent behind us and that makes us feel great. We’re playing for our people and we want to make them as happy as we can.”
With a place in the knockout rounds already secured, Jose Pekerman’s side could be forgiven for looking ahead to their Round of 16 tie and beyond. As Quintero pointed out, however, they are resisting the urge to get ahead of themselves:
“We don’t want to think about all that. We’ve won our two games and we’re through, but we still have one match to go, a game that will decide if we finish first or second. That’s all we’re interested in at the moment.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the tournament, the gifted midfielder said: “We’re playing well, no doubt about it, but I really feel we can get even better. We want to play a more solid game and we’re going to take things one step at a time. That’s the way it has to be. We’re going to start thinking about our opponents in the last 16 when we find out who they are, and then we’ll do all we can to make the quarter-finals. We won’t be lacking in confidence.”