Angelo Henriquez hopes he can use the positive impression he made at the recent U20 World Cup as a springboard to greater things with the 2014 Brazil World Cup looming around the corner.
Henriquez’s native Chile were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the competition after a thrilling 120 minutes in Istanbul which saw Chile twice throw away an advantage to eventually lose 4-3 to Ghana.
The 19-year-old striker put Chile in the lead both times with his first a fizzing strike from the edge of the box and his second a well timed run and glancing header over the keeper but it wasn’t enough thanks to Ghana’s last minute winner.
“We are all really sad right now but this tournament can be a big boost for us if it helps us get to the national team,” he told FIFA.
“If we keep developing and learning and working hard, I’m sure we’ll be able to look back on this in the future with a lot of happy memories.”
The forward was keen not appear crestfallen by Chile’s elimination however, and sought to see past the defeat and instead look to the positives.
He continued: “There are many positive things for us to take from this match, I really believe that…I actually think this was our best performance here at the World Cup; the boys were incredible out there.
“But football isn’t always fair and unfortunately one good team had to go out tonight.
“The future is bright for Chilean football, I think you can see that. The senior team is looking good right now and there are a lot of great players in there already.
“I think you have seen here that there is also a lot of young talent in Chile too, and hopefully we can play our part in the future. I definitely hope we’ll be back at more World Cups to represent our country, and I think a lot of the players in there have the ability to do that.”
Should Chile qualify for the World Cup, Henriquez will likely make the squad given his impressive run out in Turkey but progression hangs in the balance as they sit fourth behind Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador.
Overall, the past year has been fairly mixed for Henriquez since his £4 million switch from Univesidad De Chile last summer. As a young lad, adapting to a new culture can’t have been easy, so it’s understandable that he’s yet to make a first appearance for United’s first team.
Henriquez did get some minutes for the U21s, scoring twice, and one would assume he had adapted well to his new surroundings by January thanks to his loan spell at Wigan Athletic.
Things started well, a debut league goal against Sunderland provided a cause for optimism, providing a cause for optimism but in truth, things never really progressed from there and Henriquez frequently found himself as an unused substitute for the second half of the season. Although, he did manage to get his hands on silverware thanks to Wigan’s FA Cup triumph.
Nevertheless, the man billed by David de Gea as the ‘goal architect’ has certainly shown some signs of encouragement and his two goals against Ghana were both smart finishes, demonstrating his ability in front of goal. Henriquez has been prolific for Chile at youth level, and a goal on his international debut provides further evidence of his nose for scoring.
Next season should be an interesting one for Henriquez and another loan move where he would be guaranteed regular playing time could prove fruitful and critical to his development. It was disappointing to see him wasted at Wigan last term as Roberto Martinez had a little gem on his hands but failed to utilize him effectively.
Another option could be to stay with Warren Joyce’s U21’s. A natural goalscorer was lacking last season with Nick Powell and Adnan Januzaj often fielded as would be strikers and a consistent run of games could be a viable alternative to a loan move. And it would also allow Henriquez to be eligible for United’s cup games, traditionally used to blood the stars of tomorrow.
A first-team breakthrough still seems a little way off and there are still areas to Henriquez’s game which need a little bit of work. However, the 19-year-old’s natural goal-scoring instinct will surely stand him in good stead for the coming years, wherever he ends up playing his football next season.