Castillo proves he was worth waiting for
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela |
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela (Reuters) - It took more than two years for Mexico to persuade Nery Castillo to play for them and many wondered whether it was worth the effort.
The answer came on Wednesday as the 23-year-old Olympiakos striker, whose services were also being chased by Uruguay and Greece, inspired them to a 2-0 win over defending champions Brazil at the Copa America.
Castillo scored the first, upstaging the likes of Robinho by flicking the ball over a defender's head and then touching it past goalkeeper Doni.
He never let the Brazil defence rest and should have added a third in injury-time when he ran half the length of the field, only to shoot wide after rounding the goalkeeper.
"I controlled the ball and saw the opponent coming from behind. Then it came into my head to flick it over home and, luckily, I scored a beautiful goal," he told Mexican television.
"I was sad about the goal that didn't happen, it was a beautiful move and 3-0 would have been a great prize."
Castillo was born in Mexico of Uruguayan parents and raised in Uruguay where he began his career with Danubio as a 15-year-old. He moved to Greece one year later to join Olympiakos.
All three countries chased his services before Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez finally won the race.
Castillo then upset the critics when he pulled out of the friendlies against Paraguay and Ecuador for personal reasons.
"They're making a big fuss about a lad who is not so interested in playing," said former striker Carlos Hermosillo at the time.
There were even suggestions his representatives had asked for money for him to choose Mexico.
"We have never talked about money with Nery Castillo and we will never talk about it," retorted Sanchez.
Castillo finally made his debut in the friendly against Iran and scored his first goal in the 2-1 win over Cuba at this month's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Wednesday's shock win gave Mexico some respite from the critics after they lost 2-1 to United States in Sunday's Gold Cup final.
Afterwards, Sanchez was back to his usual confident self.
"The win against one of the best teams in the world gives us confidence and motivation to continue in this Copa America," he said.
"Mexican players can compete on level terms with any player in the world."
(additional reporting by Carlos Calvo in Puerto Ordaz)
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