Brazil’s gamble with golden boys

2013-07-07 14:00

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Fábio Zanini introduced Neymar to South African readers in 2010. Now he introduces A Seleção’s hopes for the future

The 2-0 win over the Soviet Union in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden was not a particularly brilliant match by the Brazilian team, but it is arguably one of the most important in the history of A Seleção.

A few days before that game on June 15, coach Vicente Feola, disappointed over a lacklustre goalless draw against England, took the fateful decision of promoting three newcomers to the Brazilian national football team.

One of them was 17 year-old Pelé, who would become the star of the tournament, the first of the five World Cups Brazil has won.

Throughout its history, Brazil has relied on youth power to become world champions.

In the 1994 World Cup, their fourth conquest, Ronaldo was only 17 (even though he was only a substitute), while in 2002, the fifth win,

Ronaldinho was 22. But never before have the golden boys of Brazilian soccer been so prominent.

Never has the country entrusted its fortunes quite so rashly to players fresh out of adolescence.

And never have they led the team to glory so confidently.

The new kids on the block form a quartet that was fundamental to success in the recent Fifa Confederations Cup.

Striker Neymar (21) won the Man of the Tournament award and strengthened his current position as Brazil’s best player.

Centre forward Oscar (also 21) was responsible for several plays that resulted in goals.

Bernard (20) is a rising star in Brazilian soccer with a reputation as an extremely gifted passer.

Lucas, another 20-year-old, played only briefly in the tournament, but is a skilled dribbler in the mould of others who have built Brazilian soccer fame, such as Garrincha.

All four have a great chance to be in the squad for next year’s World Cup in their home country.

In the case of Neymar, only a catastrophe could prevent it, and even at such tender ages, all of them would seem to have two or three more World Cups ahead of them.

Some Brazilians are asking if this is not a bit irresponsible, as none of the players have much international experience.

Oscar has spent the longest time at a world-class club, Chelsea, but even that has only been for a year.

Lucas made a move to Paris St Germain six months ago, and Neymar has just been sold to Spanish giant Barcelona.

Bernard still plays for Brazil’s Atlético-MG, although one can be sure he will be snapped up very soon by a major European club.

Many supporters would be less concerned if more experienced feet, such as Ronaldinho’s or Kaká’s, were by the side of the boys

in the team. But there hangs a big question mark over whether those veterans will be in the World Cup squad after having been left out by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for the Confederations Cup.

Brazil is taking a gamble and hoping it will pay off as it did 55 years ago.

Bernard Anício Caldeira Duarte

Age: 20

Club: Atletico Mineiro

Position: Midfielder

National team appearances: 5

Goals:0

Profile: Bernard is relatively unknown outside Brazil, but after some dazzling performances in the Confederations Cup, European scouts would have taken notice of his considerable abilities. He may have had a quiet 2013 so far, but for a winger, 34 goals in 114 professional appearances for Mineiro and Democrata indicate that he’s an industrious player who can help out with goals should the strikers fail.

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr

Age: 21

Club: Barcelona

Position: Forward

National team appearances: 39

Goals: 24

Profile: Already tipped to be one of the greatest footballers in the history of the sport, Neymar’s performance in the recent Confederations Cup in his home country left critics eating humble pie. He helped the Samba boys win the competition, scoring four goals and assisting in most. From next season, he will be playing his club football in Spain alongside the best player of this generation, Lionel Messi.

Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva

Age: 20

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Position: Midfielder

National team appearances: 27

Goals: 4

Profile: Brazil prides itself on its excellent winger, but the class of the 1970s, with players like Jairzihno and Garrincha in the 1960s, has not been adequately  replaced. In the PSG midfielder, Brazil have the closest thing. His versatility in switching between the wings and the heart makes him valuable, and his back-tracking eases the defensive workload for Brazil’s attack-minded defence.

Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Jr

Age: 21

Club: Chelsea

Position: Attacking midfielder

National team appearances: 22

Goals: 6

Profile: His pairing with Neymar in the attacking  force of Brazil during the recent Confederations Cup  was praised by many as the engine and driving force behind the team’s success. Upon his arrival at  Stamford Bridge in July last year, Oscar was given jersey Number 11 – which was last worn by the legendary Didier Drogba. He was pivotal in Chelsea’s 2012/13 Europa  Cup glory.

» Zanini is Folha d. Sao Paolo Foreign Editor

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