Navi Mumbai: Before arriving at the Indian shores for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Colombia were touted as potential underdogs for the tournament. On Thursday, they did justice to the tag by handing the USA their first defeat in the tournament along with qualifying for the round of 16.
Los Cafeteros’ journey to the knockouts wouldn’t have been possible without one man, Juan Penaloza, who bagged 3 goals in the process.
It was on Tuesday when he first made the headlines. Penaloza shattered a million hearts by handing India’s qualification hopes a huge blow. And a couple of days later, the forward once again delivered when it mattered, getting on the scoresheet with a peach of a free-kick.
Standing at an acute angle, Penaloza's fierce shot sailed into the net through the underside of the woodwork and as the team gathered around for another dance celebration, the Colombian forward raced to the dugout and grabbed a shirt with a photograph printed on it.
While for many players of his age, playing for their national team in a tournament of such magnitude is already a big factor of motivation, Penaloza relies on another source.
“My deceased brother is my biggest idol and he gives me the motivation to play, every time I take the pitch,“ the Estudiantes midfielder said in an exclusive interview after the match.
“Playing in the Colombian shirt is also a big motivation for me and will always remain a motivation for me to perform in the matches further,“ the playmaker added.
Penaloza, who is a Real Madrid fanboy stated that he isn’t flattered by individual honours.
“The three goals I scored are not mine, they are for the team and I feel happy about it. We are going in a flow, we are just performing and as they coach summed it up, we are working as one team. Everybody in the team knows they have a role to play. That’s how we are going about it and we are enjoying this World Cup very much. I am thankful that God is with us,“ the Colombia midfielder signed off.
Having already hit the ground running, Penaloza is on the radar of many scouts from Europe’s elite clubs. The diminutive playmaker will aim to repay his brother in the best possible way as the tournament progresses.