All seven players of Olympic age included in Dunga's squad for the Centenario in USA will be hoping to make a splash similar to the great Ronaldinho in 1999
Dunga is keen to provide the youngsters with some valuable experience of a major international competition and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) are hopeful that June’s tournament in USA will see at least one of them emerge to continue a history of breakout performances at football’s oldest continental competition.
Moments after the squad was announced, CBF technical coordinator Gilmar Rinaldi told Brasil Global Tour that he is confident they all have what it takes to continue a recent tradition of youngsters making an impression at the Copa America, just as a young Ronaldinho did in Venezuela in 1999.
"We are hoping for something like that and will monitor them closely,” he said.
“We are sure that someone will stand out. There is a great opportunity for every time the national team plays. But historically the Copa America has contributed to this, and we hope it will be the same this time.”
22-year-old Ederson’s recent emergence at Benfica in Portugal has seen him dislodge not one but two Brazil international goalkeepers. He nudged World Cup 2014 star Julio Cesar out of the first team in Lisbon with performances so impressive Dunga is now said to no longer be considering taking senior team goalkeeper Alisson to the Olympics as one of the three overage players.
His rise has been swift. Two months ago he was kicking his heels on the Benfica bench, now he will go to two major international tournaments with his country. The Sao Paulo-born shot-stopper who began his career with the Ribeirao club is unlikely to see first-team action in USA but his time with the squad will be vital to proving his worth for the Olympic Games.
Despite being considered one of the best young defenders in Europe and heavy links with a mega-money switch to Barcelona, 21-year-old Paris Saint-Germain stopper Marquinhos is yet to establish himself as a senior international. The Centre-back, who has often played on the right for the French champions this season, has been in the squad for 16 of Dunga’s 22 matches in charge but has made just eight appearances, six of which came from the bench.
With David Luiz dropped from the squad entirely for Copa America, he will hope to edge out Shandong Luneng’s Gil and force his way into the heart of the defence alongside captain Miranda.
Marquinhos will also be in competition with Sao Paulo’s Rodrigo Caio. And the two could well be partners at the back in Rio. The 22-year-old has overcome the serious knee injury that was rumoured to have cost him a move to Barcelona in 2014. He has played a starring role in his side’s continued march towards the Copa Libertadores.
The versatile, technical stopper can also play as a defensive midfielder and his strong personality and leadership skills have him earmarked to become a Selecao star of the future.
The 22-year-old looks a certainty to start at right-back in the Olympics and now appears to have moved ahead of Real Madrid’s Danilo in the pecking order with the senior team. With 33-year-old Dani Alves’ international career unlikely to last to Russia 2018, Fabinho will be hoping minutes in USA will provide the chance to prove himself a worthy successor.
On the opposite flank, Atletico Mineiro’s Douglas Santos will also be hoping to make his international bow after joining the squad ahead of another Real Madird star. A misunderstanding over Marcelo’s fitness ahead of March’s qualifiers appears to have ended his international hopes, at least in the short term.
Douglas Santos, 22, is a full-back very much in the Brazilian mould - always eager to get forward and join the attack. He also appears certain to star in Rio but will find it difficult to see much playing time with Filipe Luis having made the role his own. Having been called into two previous squads, however, the uncapped Santos will hope it’s a case of third time lucky in USA.
Rafinha return to North America with Brazil for his first appearance for the Selecao since coming off the bench to star in their 4-1 Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour thrashing of USA in September 2015. The Barcelona star appeared to be on the verge of winning a spot in Dunga’s first-team after his sensational goal at the Gillette Stadium, but a serious knee injury suffered back in Spain curtailed his rise.
The 23-year-old will be charged with taking on a senior role at the Olympics and will hope the Copa America provides him the chance to prove his worth not only to Dunga, but also to those watching at home as he seeks a regular starting role with his club.
Of the Olympic seven, the greatest expectations are of Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa. And the 19-year-old likely has a better chance than all of the above to make a real statement at Copa America. Centre-forward currently appears to be the one role truly up for grabs in Dunga’s otherwise settled XI.
His 36-year-old Santos team-mate Ricardo Oliveira is currently favourite to start in USA but with Gabigol is certainly more suited to the false No.9 role that Dunga has favoured since his July 2014 appointment. Yet to make his international debut, 2016 could well be the year of Gabigol, who is undoubtedly hoping to make a Ronaldinho-esque Copa America splash in USA.