With one eye focused intently on a place at the World Cup, the Brazil Under-20 side kicked off the final stage of the South American Championships this past weekend with a 2-2 draw against Ecuador.
Goals from Corinthians duo Guilherme Arana and Maycon had put the Selecao two goals up before the half-hour mark, but two second-half penalties ensured Rogerio Micale’s side began the second and final phase of the tournament with a draw.
Brazil are one of a six-team group competing for the title, with the top four securing a place at the World Cup in South Korea later this year.
Olympic gold medal-winning coach Micale boasts a talented squad which includes the likes of promising youngsters Lyanco, Felipe Vizeu and David Neres, and is hoping to secure what would be the first U20 South American title since Neymar hit nine goals to take the crown in 2011.
And the Barcelona superstar isn’t the only U20 graduate to go on to star on the world stage at senior level. Below, we look back at some of Brazil’s greatest U20 South American champions.
He would go on to conquer the world and be named the best on the planet. But in 1985 Romario was still just a very promising teenager. He represented the Selecao sub 20 in Paraguay that year, finishing the tournament’s top marksman with five goals to inspire his side to the title.
Ronaldinho made quite an impression on the 1999 U20 South American championship in Argentina. The Gremio teenager charmed a hostile local crowd with his remarkable individual ability, sparking headlines of “here comes the next Ronaldo.” Despite his talent, and the likes of Julio Cesar and Edu alongside him, Brazil finished third. Later that year, Ronaldinho won the Copa America.
Adriano overcame Romario’s title by ending the 2001 tournament in Ecuador by hitting six goals as the Selecao took the title. The secret was out, as Brazil unleased it’s latest teenage prodigy on the world stage. He would soon be heading for Italy where he would go on to prove himself a world great for inter, before personal problems blighted the latter stages of a glittering career.
Boy wonder Neymar took the continent by storm in 2011, hitting a stunning nine goals as Brazil claimed the title in Peru. Flanked by Lucas Moura and Oscar, the Santos star began the tournament with four goals against Paraguay and also hit doubles versus Uruguay and Chile. He inspired Santos to the Copa Libertadores later that year, but missed the U20 World Cup as he joined the senior team for Copa America.