‘Joga Bonito’ is a Portuguese phrase which means ‘play beautifully’. The words neatly encapsulate what Brazilian football has come to mean for the world. It is a style that has transcended generations and managed to enthrall nearly everyone who has ever witnessed the country’s best footballing talent in action.
It’s now India’s turn to be enthralled.
Amid tight security and a lot of media attention, Brazil’s junior national team arrived in India on Tuesday ahead of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup.
The 21-member squad landed in Mumbai on Tuesday morning accompanied by as many as 17 support staff members including five coaching staff members and even a Chef.
The team, however, arrived without the presence of its star striker Vinicius Junior. The Flamengo forward, on his way to Real Madrid for around €45 million when he turns 18 next year, will join the side on Saturday after finishing his commitments with the club. Sadly, for football fans in Mumbai it means he will not be part of the XI that will face New Zealand in a warm-up game at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday.
The rest of the squad, meanwhile, trained at the venue for two hours on Tuesday. From penalty shootouts to tactical plays, the youngsters went through a number of routines giving a glimpse of what’s in store once the the World Cup begins.
The South American giants are placed in Group D and will take on Spain on October 7 at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. Niger and North Korea are other sides in their group.
Interest in Vinicius
The influence of Vinicius, though, has piqued much interest in the run up to the tournament. The star forward’s Madrid transfer has shone a spotlight on the camp, with the youngster expected to wow the fans with his footballing skills.
His teammates, though, are desperate to focus on the game despite the attention drawn by their much-hyped team-mate. The talk of big-money deals is only natural, but some of the teenage footballers claim their interest for now lie only on their performances on the field.
For defender Matheus Stockl, playing with Vinicius is an inspiration. But, it is through his performance that he wants to reach the heights reached by his team-mate and not by just thinking about it.
“He is an amazing player. We are lucky to have him in our side. He has set an example. If we work hard may be one day we can reach his level. For now we are focusing on our game and are confident of doing well,” Stockl said after training on Tuesday.
First choice goal-keeper Gabriel Brazao too shared Stockl’s views.
“Representing the country is a pleasure. Once you enter the field you have to play to win. Not worry about anything else,” said Brazao. “My focus is on the national team and the World Cup,” he added.
Other than Vinicius, the Brazil squad includes some bright young stars.
While Vinicius has hogged the headlines with his multi-million transfer to Madrid, there are many in the squad that remain on the watch-list of some top clubs.
Midfielder Alan De Souza Guimaraes is another young star who is being pursued by Real Madrid. It was reported that Alan’s agent met with Real president Florentino Perez and CEO Jose Angel Sanchez. He was earlier also pursued by Serie A giants Inter Milan, but remained at Sao Paulo after they enforced a €50 million buyout clause.
Forward Paulinho is another name that has been mentioned in the same breath as Vinicius. The 17-year-old, who plays for Vasco da Gama in the Brazilian Championship, emerged from Vinicius’ shadow earlier this year with a record-setting goal in the country’s top-notch league. He pipped the much-hyped Vinicius to become the first player born in 2000 or after to score a goal in the prestigious tournament.
The duo will come together once the tournament begins and are expected to set the goal-charts ticking from the get go.
Searching for long-awaited World Cup
Brazil, along with USA, hold the record for most appearances in the Under-17 World Cup. They have also won the tournament the most number of times. Their last win coming way back in 2003.
Success in world events has eluded the South American giants off late. Their senior team too has failed to win since their triumph in 2002.
The teenage outfit, though, holds the capability to change this trend. This side was the first team to qualify for the tournament this year. Coached by Carlos Amadeu, Brazil qualified for the World Cup after topping the South American U-17 Championships. During the tournament they smashed in 24 goals, the most by any team and conceded just three, the least among the participants. Vinicius was their top-scorer with seven goals.
Fans will expect a repeat of the performance from both Vinicius and his team. While the end result is anybody’s guess, with Brazil around what is certain is that the game will be played beautifully.