Perennial favourites Brazil will be looking to claim their fifth World title at this level and expectations, as ever, remain huge both at home and abroad. The defending champions at Under-20 level in South America, success that booked their place at this tournament, know hopes will be high that they can take such form into this competition as well.
However, fans of the side should take note; two years ago, at the previous World U-20 Championships, Brazil also came into the tournament as favourites for the title and as defending champions from the South American region. That Brazilian side contained the like of Milan’s Alexandre Pato, Everton’s Jo and Real Madrid’s Marcelo, but failed to perform.
Things got off to the worst possible start when Poland surprisingly won the first match 1-0, and matters hardly improved during a 3-2 win against South Korea in the second match. Brazil strolled into a 3-0 lead, but were given a fright when the Koreans fought back with two late goals, forcing Brazil to cling on desperately. In their final match, Brazil were stunned by a talented American side, who won thanks to a brace from Jozy Altidore. Despite only finishing third in the group, Brazil scrambled through to the round of 16, where they met Spain.
In arguably their best performance of the tournament, the tie finished level at 2-2 after 90 minutes. However, the Brazilians were no match for the harder working Spanish side in extra-time. The Spaniards clinched victory with two goals in that period to send Brazil home prematurely.
Despite having a wealth of options available to call up at this level, the Brazilian squad is made up nearly entirely of domestic-based players, with only one under contract to a European side in the 21-man squad. Furthermore, several members of the team who caught the eye at the South American U-20 Championships haven’t been called up to this selection; top-scorer Walter, who hit five goals during the tournament, remains at home.
This would appear to be a deliberate ploy by the Brazilian FA of selecting ambitious players keen to make their mark on the tournament in Egypt. This should avoid a repetition of the lethargic performances witnessed just over two years ago in Canada.
Players to Watch
Nevertheless, there is still an abundance of talent in this squad and it will be fascinating to see precisely who emerges from this team. Gremio’s Douglas Costa is arguably the best known player in the team. He has already made several appearances for his club side, and has already drawn comparisons with another former Gremio old-boy: Ronaldinho.
Attacking midfielder Paulo Henrique from Santos could be following in the footsteps of recent graduates from the Vila Belmiro such as Robinho and Diego. He’s already made his goal scoring mark on the domestic scene, most notably in the 2009 Paulista Championship, and he has also managed four goals in the Brazilian league this season. He scored a hat-trick in a recent warm-up match for the national team, so certainly has the potential to be a threat from a deep position.
Up front Alan Kardec will be looking to re-establish his credentials as one of the leading striking talents in the country. Under contract at Vasco, but loaned out to Internacional, the move to Porto Alegre hasn’t worked out as he is yet to feature in the team. Nevertheless, after making his debut aged just 16 and hitting an impressive 13 goals in 45 matches in 2008 in all competitions, there is a good chance he too could make a positive impact on the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Rafael (Cruzeiro), Renan (Atletico Mineiro), Saulo (Sport)
Defenders: Diogo (Sao Paulo), Douglas (Goias), Wellington Junior (Botafogo), Victor Ramos (Standard Liege), Dalton (Fluminense), Fabrico (Flamengo), Toloi (Goias)
Midfielders: Boquita (Corinthians), Maylson (Gremio), Renan (Atletico Paranaense), Paulo Henrique (Santos), Alex Teixeira (Vasco), Giulano (Internacional), Douglas Costa (Gremio), Souza (Vasco)
Attackers: Alan Kardec (Internacional), Ciro (Sport), Maicon (Fluminense)
27th September - Costa Rica
30th September - Czech Republic
03rd October - Australia
Whilst this squad is loaded with talent, the 2007 tournament illustrated that Brazil can’t just expect to turn up and claim the prize. Two years ago an unheralded Czech team made it all the way through to the final, showing the sort of team spirit and work-rate that Brazil need to match if they hope to claim a fifth title at this level.
Brazil play the Czechs, and also the Australians, both of whom can be expected to adopt a high tempo approach to the game in an attempt to disrupt their more fluid style. If Brazil fail to match the work-rate of their opponents, then they can expect to be on an early flight back to South America. Therefore, the group stages will be a clear indication of what sort of attitude has been instilled into this Brazilian side. If they can match their opponents' hard-graft and ally that to their natural talent, then there is every chance they can claim outright victory.
Walter Townsend, Goal.com