Guerra: It's been an exceptional year

18 Dec 2016

For the match for third place at the FIFA Club World Cup, Atletico Nacional coach Reinaldo Rueda made a key change to his team’s line-up, relegating Miguel Borja to the bench and starting Alejandro Guerra, who was tasked with a special assignment, in his place.

“It was a tough challenge, because I’d never played in the centre-forward position before,” the Venezuelan, who usually fulfils the role of attacking midfielder, told after the closely contested encounter with Club America. “Replacing Borja, who’s the goalscorer of the team, was not a walk in the park, but during the game Orlando Berrio and I were able to link up well, and that made things a bit easier for me.”

In fact, Guerra proved to be a constant thorn in the Mexican side’s defence, and after several unsuccessful attempts on goal, he found the net to put the South American champions 2-0 up. “Macnelly and Berrio put together a great little move and I was able to finish it off. I dedicated it to my wife, who asked for a goal before the match,” he explained.

He admitted that he sometimes had trouble sticking to Rueda’s instructions, given his natural tendency to drop deep to get the ball. “The boss asked me not to drift back and go looking for the ball in midfield, and instead to stay up front like a classic No9. I struggled with it at times, and left my position, but with the support of such an intelligent player like Macnelly, I stuck at it and put in a good performance.”

Opportunity rued Guerra had a great chance to put his team 3-1 up, but when he found himself one-on-one with the opposition goalkeeper, Moises Munoz, he somehow contrived to knock it over the bar. “I really regretted missing that chance,” he said. It would have been simpler to hit it in off the post, but it was too high in the end.”

Then, his worst fears were realised: Club America equalised via an Oribe Peralta penalty. “That made me regret my earlier mistake even more,” said the 31-year-old. “It made me angry; at that moment, I wanted to cry.”

Guerra’s feeling of dejection did not improve as the match went into a penalty shoot-out. “Penalties are a complete lottery, no matter how much you practise them,” he noted. “The players who remain calm are usually the ones who score. And when you have to watch from afar, you really go through the mill.” And he was indeed looking on from the sidelines, having been substituted in the 78th minute. All he could do was offer words of encouragement to his team-mates.

In the end, Lady Luck smiled on Los Verdolagas, and the numerous fans present in the stands of Yokohama International Stadium showed their appreciation. “This team has an impressive bunch of fans,” concluded Guerra.

“Without them we would never have got here, and we’re very grateful to them. I feel very proud of the team. It’s been an exceptional year and we shouldn’t reproach ourselves for anything. We can end the year calmly, knowing that we did as well as we could.”