No distractions for single-minded Zamudio
Take a visit to Claudio Zamudio’s Twitter feed and you will see that the Mexican striker last tweeted on 18 October, the day on which El Tri opened their FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 campaign against Argentina.
“We decided to uninstall all the applications from our mobiles and tablets so that we wouldn’t get distracted,” the front man told FIFA.com.** **“We didn’t want to get overexcited it things started going well and we didn’t want to get too down if they went the other way. I think it’s worked out pretty well for us.”
Zamudio is right to say that. Arriving in Chile as title candidates, Mexico have lived up to their billing, topping an exceptionally tough group that contained Australia, Argentina and Germany, and then coming from behind to beat the tournament hosts before seeing off Ecuador, not without a little difficulty.
Their run to the last four has generated plenty of excitement back home, though the only updates Zamudio has received on that front has come from his family. Happy to give social media a miss for the time being, the No10 said: “Obviously we know what’s going on at home, but it’s not the same to be hanging on every piece of news. That’s the difference.”
Opening his account Absent from social media, Zamudio was also missing from the scoresheet in the group phase of the competition, though he has put that right in the knockout phase, scoring two vital goals to help the Mexicans advance to the semis.
The first came in the Round-of-16 tie against Chile, with the striker sliding the ball in from close range just two minutes after the hosts had taken the lead. His second came in the quarter-final against Ecuador, Zamudio tucking away a rebound in the penalty area to set his side on the way to a hard-fought 2-0 win.
“It gives me confidence to know that I can find the back of the net when the team needs it most,” said the youngster. “They were crucial goals but I couldn’t have scored them without the hard work of my team-mates. That’s why I stayed calm, because the team was playing well. I knew it was going to come.”
Though he lists Javier Hernandez and Ronaldo among his role models, he compares himself to Luis Suarez, “because he’s so mobile and he can finish with either foot”.
There is more to Zamudio’s game than just scoring goals, however, as he proved by doing justice to his shirt number with vital assists to help Mexico take the lead in their meetings with Argentina and Chile. Explaining his role, he said: “My job is to score goals, which is what I enjoy the most, but if there’s a team-mate in a better position, then I don’t even think about it. The team comes first.”
Revenge mission Mexico will need that attitude and more if they are to defeat reigning champions Nigeria, who have impressed everyone at Chile 2015, not that Zamudio is overawed: “They’re like any other team. Their main asset is their speed, though I’d like to see how they handle going behind. But even if we don’t manage to get the first goal, we’re ready for the challenge. We’ve got 90 minutes to work our socks off and win it.”
As he acknowledged, Thursday’s semi-final is no ordinary match, not with so much at stake and not with the chance to avenge the 6-1 and 3-0 defeats El Tri suffered at the hands of the Golden Eaglets at UAE 2013, the second of those results coming in the final: “I watched both those games as a fan and though they weren’t against this exact team, we still want revenge. We’re all Mexico.”
Aside from an opportunity to settle old scores, Zamudio sees the meeting in Concepcion as a special occasion and admitted to feeling a little nervous at the prospect of it all: “Of course I do: it’s a World Cup semi-final. We work hard, though, and that’s allowed us to stay cool at crucial times. We know how to handle the pressure. I think we’re going to enjoy this game and I hope we can come away with the right result.”