Sambafoot Sunday: Brazil’s next generation feel the heat at the U-17s World Cup
by James Nalton. The beat goes on...
At every level of football, a player who pulls on the canary yellow jersey of Brazil will be expected to perform some form of football wizardry, and in the heat of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, the expectations on the Brazil players taking part in the FIFA U17 World Cup are no different.
At under-17 level the players are labelled as the latest attacking sensation, the new nerveless clinical striker, or the next combative defensive player who might have the skill to build attacks, but prefers stopping them. The headlines usually read “The New Pelé/Cafu/Lúcio/Zico/Jairzinho“ (delete as appropriate).
Their opening game in the tournament did nothing to douse these expectations, as they emphatically defeated Slovakia by six goals to one, with Atlético Paranaense attacking duo Nathan and Mosquito becoming the latest lavishly praised wonder-kids.
As the tournament progresses it’s inevitable that more names will be added to the list and they’ll subsequently be linked with transfer moves away from Brazil.
European clubs will be scrambling around to see which of these potential superstars might have a European passport, therefore avoiding any work permit issues, and private investors will be putting bids in for players as they look to get their own piece of the hyped-young-talent pie.
Mosquito’s performance in the aforementioned game against Slovakia was another in a long line of impressive showings at youth level, and the 17-year-old has already been the subject of an ownership tussle.
He began his youth career in Rio de Janeiro at Vasco da Gama, but was somehow snapped up by Atlético Paranaense who recognised his precocious talent and looked to capitalise on it. The dispute between the two clubs meant that the young striker had to miss several games in the domestic under-17 cup, as potential monetary gains for clubs are prioritised over player development.
There’s not much that will stop Mosquito though. His name will always be an attraction for the punny headline writers, and his football talents should always draw a crowd whether he plays his football in Curitiba or Catalonia.
His performances at the South American under 15s Championships in 2011 caught the eyes of the talent spotters, as he managed to score well over a goal per game, displaying great technical ability, strength, and finishing prowess.
How far Mosquito and his team-mates can go in the game will depend on the decisions they make when the heat is on, both on and off the pitch. The private investors will look to leech all the money out of player transfer fees, and will try and convince the player that they’re working in his best interests, when this is rarely the case.
Many of them will be told how good they are and it will become easy to believe that they’ve “made it” in the game, when the reality is that they are just taking their first steps. A hat-trick against Slovakia in an under-17 tournament is nice, but the truly successful players will see it as another day at the office and not get carried away.
Many young Brazilian’s have fallen by the wayside due to the fact that they believed their own hype too early on. At Santos for example, nearly every youth player who shows the slightest glimpse of promise has been named as the successor to Neymar, by an online media who favour clicks over accuracy.
Perhaps the most promising of these Santos youngsters is Gabriel Barbosa, who takes his place in the squad alongside Mosquito.
Gabigol and the new Pelés
Gabriel, who is expectantly nicknamed Gabigol, has the usual skill-set required of any new Pelé, but his advantage over colleagues such as Neilton and Victor Andrade might be a slightly more level head and realistic outlook on life. After scoring his first professional goal for Santos in a cup game this year, he commented:
“I’ll just go back to playing video games. I always score a lot in the video games, but in real life it’s so much better.”
Gabigol didn’t play in the first match at the U17 World Cup, but as the games come thick and fast with only a few days break between each one, it’s likely that squad rotation will be required in the sweltering heat and every player will get their chance.
The pressure heaped on these players at such a young age could be a good thing, as there is always pressure when playing for Brazil and this will only increase as they rise through the ranks. Assessing at an early age how each player deals with the expectation could be a good indication as to whether they have what it takes to be a future international.
But for now, let’s just enjoy the entertainment which these players can provide on a football pitch, and not burden them with lazy comparisons at such a young age.
Make sure you stay tuned to Sambafoot for the latest on Brazil’s matches in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.