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Youth Olympic Football Tournaments

Peruvian prodigy Tavara thinking big

Gerald Tavara #7 of Peru celebrates in style after scoring against Iceland
© Getty Images

The goals have been flying in so far at the Boys' Youth Olympic Football Tournament 2014 in Nanjing, which has already yielded 22 strikes in four games, or an average of more than five goals per match. But among the many scorers, the only one to have scored directly from a free-kick is Peru midfielder Gerald Tavara, whose set-piece trickery helped Los Incas seal a 2-1 success over Iceland on Monday.

The South Americans were already 1-0 ahead when they were awarded a free-kick in a promising position. Up stepped Tavara, who spotted the opposing goalkeeper out of position and dinked a left-footed curler over the wall. Iceland's custodian Aron Stefansson could only watch as the ball sailed beyond his despairing grasp into the top right corner of the net, becoming the first free-kick goal of the campaign.

"I've really put a lot of effort into set-pieces," the dead-ball specialist from Lima told after the game. "For years I've focused on my delivery in training and spent more time on it than everyone else. Of course, there are other free-kick experts in the team and we all take it in turns whenever there's a free-kick opportunity comes along, so I'm really pleased that I was able to score one today."

*Seventh heaven *Whether by accident or design, the Peruvian No7 shares his set-piece flair - and even his squad number - with his idol, Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention a succession of iconic players such as George Best, David Beckham and Figo. It is little wonder, then, that Tavara's team-mates all want to get their hands on his shirt.

"To be honest, I didn't choose this number. It wasn't up to me," the Inca impresario explained, "Everyone in the team wants the No7 [shirt], but I'm very lucky because I'm the one who got it. Perhaps it's fate."

But besides his lucky stars, Tavara has a number of benefactors to thank for his talents: "I ​​started playing football when I was very little," the teenager recalled. "When I was 14 years old, I joined the youth academy at Sporting Cristal Lima.

"During this whole process, there have been plenty of people around me who have given me lots of help. The club has numerous youth programmes for different age groups and I'm in one of them now. I hope I can keep making progress in the future and then get signed up by the club. "

Tavara may be humble but he also harbours big dreams. "I'll always work hard and strive to improve. In the future if there's an opportunity, then of course I want to be able to play in Europe's top leagues. My dream is to play for Real Madrid one day, just like Cristiano Ronaldo."

*Gunning for gold *Having stolen the limelight from Iceland, who were themselves riding high after their own victorious debut, last-year's CONMEBOL U-15 champions Peru have suddenly become the latest medal contenders, with some media and fans even predicting a meeting between Los Incas and Korea Republic in the final.

"We haven't had time to watch the South Korean team's last game," Tavara said coolly. "But we know that this is a world-class competition, we can't underestimate any opponent. Our coach said we have to stay calm and take things step by step."

With such composure on and off the pitch, Peru's podium prospects look very bright indeed. "Our target is to win a medal," *Blanquirroja *coach Juan Jose Ore told "The games ahead won't be easy, but we know our strengths and my players are confident and cool-headed, so we should be able to win a medal. If the performances are good, then gold is a possibility."

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