By Gordon Fleetwood
I am a rookie in terms of my Copa America experience. My lone experience of the competition was the 2007 edition in Venezuela. However, that one tournament produced an experience that I have not forgotten since. In fact, it is one of my most vivid football memories. It was a goal scored on the night of June 27, 2007.
That night in Venezuela’s Puerto Ordaz Stadium, Brazil and Mexico were about to face each other in the first match for both teams. A string of poor results coupled with some poor football mean that the two nations came into the tournament under a lot pressure. Defending champions Brazil under their new coach, Dunga, were without two key players in the form of Ronaldinho and Kaká who had asked to be excluded from the squad. That left players like Diego and Robinho with the weight of expectation on their shoulders. Dunga’s Mexican counterpart, Hugo Sanchez, was likewise without some key players. His Mexican team was to be lead by Ramon Morales and the young forward Nery Castillo. Brazil were considered to be the clear favorites.
Surprisingly, both teams were closely matched in the early stages. However, Brazil were slightly better, and produces some good goal-scoring opportunities. Then came that moment that defined my experience of the tournament.
Mexico regained possession deep within Brazil’s half, and the ball lay at the feet of Juan Carlos Cacho. His gaze spotted Nery Castillo behind the Brazilian defense just before his right foot sent a lovely chipped pass to his compatriot. Castillo’s first touch cushioned the ball tenderly, his second nonchalantly flicked it over a bewildered Maicon, and his third gently nudged the ball into the net past an onrushing Doni. It was a moment of unadulterated brilliance that blew my mind.
Six minutes later, Mexico added another through a brilliant free kick from Ramon Morales. Brazil never recovered from the two goals for the duration of the first half. A second half blitz from Dunga’s men came to naught through some stout defending, an inspired performance from Guillermo Ochoa, and copious amounts of luck. Mexico did get chances to stretch their lead, but they were wasted by indecision and wayward finishing–mostly from Castillo.
Finally, the whistle blew for fulltime, and the Mexican celebrations began. Nery Castillo was the main hero of the night due to his breath-taking goal.
Brazil went on to retain their crown after beating Argentina in the final, while Mexico finished third. Castillo had a great tournament, and moved to Shaktar Donetsk for a Ukrainian record transfer fee of twenty million Euros soon after.
Since then, Castillo has never lived up to the potential he showed that year in Venezuela due to a combination of injuries, poor form, and a rotten attitude. Despite all this, I will always remember his name fondly. On that night in Puerto Ordaz, his moment of magic was burned into my consciousness. With three exquisite, left-footed touches, Nery Castillo created my favorite Copa America memory.
Gordon is a senior writer at A Football Report. You can follow him on Twitter @Gorayfle.
Posted in: South America