Thursday 14 November 2019, 23:21

Edu Garcia, Mexico’s roaring dragon

  • Eduardo Garcia was Mexico's hero of semi-final shoot-out

  • Known as 'The Dragon' since he was eight years old

  • Can Mexico claim the title? "We Mexicans can do anything"

“I like the nickname,” said Mexico’s softly spoken goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia, also known as The Dragon. “I was given it at Guadalajara, when I was eight or nine. It’s a name that makes me feel strong. It makes me feel a lot of things.”

Garcia was speaking less than ten minutes after keeping out three Netherlands spot-kicks to secure Mexico a penalty shoot-out win that sent them through to the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™.

“I’m so excited. I knew I could do it. I pictured it all,” the Dragon told after using his steely gaze to deny Mohamed Taabouni, Jayden Braaf and Youri Regeer in the shoot-out. “I’d seen some of them take kicks before and with the others I just visualised things. I was telling myself: ‘I’ve got this one. I’m going to save it’.”

Garcia’s love for goalkeeping was spotted at an early age by his father, also Eduardo. “You won’t believe me but he’s been a goalkeeper since he was a year old,” said Garcia Sr. from the stands of the Estadio Bezerrao, wearing the same sky blue jersey as his son.

Mexico v Netherlands - FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 - Eduardo Garcia of Mexico makes a save during a penalty shootout 

Confirming as much, Eduardo said: “I liked football ever since I could walk but I’d always have the ball in my hands. And when I was at kindergarten my father would take me to a sand pitch near home to kick a ball around. I liked to dive around spectacularly and be the one who saved the team. I was always drawn to the player who was dressed differently to everyone else. That’s how I wanted to be.”

Aside from throwing himself around from one side of the goal to the other, young Eduardo had another very obvious quality, as his father explained: “He was very serious-minded for someone so young.”

“I’ve been that way since I was a kid,” said The Dragon. “There wasn’t any particular reason for it and as I’ve grown up I’ve realised what I want and what I need to achieve things. And part of what I need to achieve things is to be focused.”

There can be no doubts about the goalkeeper’s focus at Brazil 2019. He has caught the eye with his skills and vital saves since Mexico’s opening match against Paraguay, and did so again in the 90 minutes of normal time against the Netherlands in Thursday’s semi-final. Not surprisingly, he has made more saves than any other keeper at the tournament (26) and has conceded only three goals, one of the lowest tallies in the competition.

An admirer of Jan Oblak and his ability to stay in the game despite sometimes only having two or three things to do, Garcia could become Mexico’s third U-17 World Cup-winning goalkeeper on Sunday.

And what makes you think you can do it, Dragon? “Because we Mexicans can do anything.”

Mexico v Netherlands - FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 - Eduardo Garcia of Mexico celebrates making a save