It was not quite the fairytale they wanted or deserved. Mozambique gave everything in the closing stages of their clash with Australia, doing all they could to take the final step in what would have become a mesmerising comeback.
That jubilant spirit remains very much present, with dejection in defeat far from their faces as they trouped through the corridors of Bucaramanga’s Coliseo Bicentenario to watch Brazil get the better of Ukraine. One of the biggest smiles was being sported by opening goal-scorer Calo, who had just written his name into Mozambique history after registering their opening goal.
“It’s a moment I will be looking back on in the future, but I’d rather I had scored a few more!” he told FIFA.com, as he itched to join his team-mates in the crowd. “This is hopefully the first of many, but the first is always something special.”
It so easily could have been more too, after dominating the second half having gone into the break 3-0 down. “The goals hadn’t come but we saw success in our passing game, so we returned with more spirit and that’s going to be key moving forward. We learned from our mistakes, so we will have to apply that again and we must be more confident.”
The pride of leading your nation on a new journey was clear on the face of the 22-year-old, but his history-making strike – fired from the left flank, taking a detour through the legs of an Australian defender, and nestling in the far bottom corner – was something he feels permeates the entire unit. “It’s not only a huge moment for me, the whole team are so happy and excited to be here,” he beamed. “It’s our first competition and we want to show we’ve got a lot to give to it.
“Right now it feels like everyone in Mozambique is with us, we’ve been receiving lots of messages and there’s such a feeling of hope and success being sent our way. Our hearts are beating strong and we aren’t just here to attend or win a single game, we want to make as much history as we can.”
While that word – history – was thrown back and forth a number of times, what Calo really feels will come from this experience is a burgeoning future for Mozambique football – in all its forms – after their debut on the global court. “This is something that is not only going to change my life, but the lives of the kids back home, who are going to get new opportunities after seeing this,” the No2 insisted, feeling this exposure can be the catalyst for growth.
“This is the start of a lot of hard work,” he said, a notion he also extended to their upcoming games against Ukraine and Brazil. “We have to raise the level and grow the spirit of Mozambique, let them step out into the world. But while we have to improve, this is the glue that will make it come together.”