Why Marquinhos could be Brazil’s most important player in a generation
World Cup 2018 began meekly for Brazil, with the five-time champions scoring just one goal in the first 180 minutes of football this summer. However, a double splurge in added time, in a 2-0 win over Costa Rica on matchday two, set the blue (and yellow) touch paper alight. Already, thoughts are on where the Brazil national team goes from here – but who has a realistic chance of making it into the squad for the Qatari World Cup of 2022?
One place where the Selecao will remain strong is in the goalkeeper position. With many goalkeepers staying sufficiently agile way into their thirties, the omens are good for Alisson and Ederson, both of whom are still in their mid-twenties. Barring an incredible downturn in form for one or the other, or the emergence of a faultless talent that trumps them both, the two men will be going to Qatar.
By contrast, it is the identity of the defenders in front of Allison (or Ederson) that will mark the biggest change in Brazil. The World Cup of 2014, in which a young Brazil side conceded ten goals in two matches on home turf, is valid reason for Brazilians to worry about what the upcoming change might bring. Current captain Thiago Silva will be 37 at the next World Cup, as will Miranda. Pedro Geromel and Filipe Luis will both be 36, and Marcelo will be 34.
Marquinhos, who will be 28 by the time of the next World Cup, is the likeliest man to captain his side. That is, of course, assuming that the manager of the 2022 squad wants a defender as a captain, but Marquinhos’ presence only ever helped Brazil to retain their status as favourites in World Cup betting outright lists. The rest of the current squad members look strong to take their place at Qatar 2022. Only Fernandinho (currently 33) is a likely omission, but stranger decisions have been made before now.
Already a multiple Champions League winner, Casemiro is still only 26, as is Philippe Coutinho – their places are safe. The likes of Fred, Willian and Paulinho will also still be young enough to fight for their places, which leaves the final third...
Age vs experience
While Gabriel Jesus (21) is a certainty, Neymar will be thirty by the time of the next World Cup, as will Roberto Firmino. While it is currently difficult to envision any of the current Brazilian mainstays being dropped, there can be no accounting for managerial changes in due course. If incumbent Brazil manager Tite is to be replaced prior to the next World Cup, nobody can foresee whether the hypothetical new man would value optimal pace or unmatched experience in the final third.
The key to success in 2022 will be how Brazilian clubs nurture young defensive talents in the next four years, especially those that go on to play in Europe prior to the next World Cup. By fate, Marquinhos stands to be the most important player in Brazil’s history since the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Pele, as the nucleus of a defence that finds itself supporting an attack with the potential for godlike power and expertise.