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Maestro Renato Augusto set to strut Selecao stage

GOAL COMMENT   By Nara Franco in Rio de Janiero 
Renato Augusto is used to the pressure that comes with trying to appease millions of expectant fans.

The Rio de Janeiro-born playmaker began his career with Flamengo, Brazil’s biggest club with an estimated 30 million-strong following. Today he can be found strutting his stuff as Brazilian league-leaders Corinthians' midfield maestro, the Timao (big team) who expect nothing less than victory.

His career has always been one of extremes, yet Renato Augusto exudes calm, cutting a figure away from the pitch every bit as serene as his technical style on it.

And so when Brazil coach Dunga asked him to re-join the biggest team of all and help manage the expectations of a nation, the Corinthians man felt nothing but pride and excitement. After all, what’s another 150 million or so demanding followers among friends?

“It has left me feeling that all the work I've put in has been worthwhile,” Renato Augsto told O Dia.

“Reaching the Selecao is the crowning achievement of this job, but one can still improve.”

It’s an achievement that demanded every bit as much patience as he routinely displays when waiting to play that killer pass. The 27-year-old last pulled on a Brazil shirt in 2011 when he was summoned by then-coach Mano Menezes, his last appearance arriving in a 3-2 friendly defeat to Germany.

An U17 and U20 international, Renato Augusto joined Dunga’s squad this week with just three senior international caps to his name and is a newcomer to the cut-throat world of South American World Cup qualifying.

Three years on he returns to a tense atmosphere, as a shock Copa America quarter-final defeat to Paraguay did little to raise the spirits of a nation still reeling from the 7-1 World Cup semi-final loss to Germany last year.

Germany has had quite an impact on his career. After rising through the ranks with Flamengo, where he helped the club to two state championship titles and a Copa do Brasil, he left for the Bundeliga in 2008, joining Bayer Leverkusen.

A talented and creative attacker, in Europe he honed other parts of his game, becoming more tactically disciplined, physically stronger and better defensively. He would make over 100 apperances for the club over four years before returning home to join Corinthians.

For Dunga, the "footprint" the midfielder acquired in German football was decisive in his call-up.

"He already has experience of having gone through German football, where he was reconfigured,” Dunga said. “He has great vision and distribution, can shoot from long distance, passes very well. All those things may help us.”

His German adventure clearly proved invaluable, but his career began to stall during his last seasons in Europe. He was reborn upon his arrival in Sao Paulo, however, quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the country as he helped Corinthians to a state title and the Recopa Sudamericana.

Renato Augusto is now one of the stars of the Brasileirao but, as always, he chooses his words with caution, ensuring he takes this next chapter in his career one page at a time.

"I cannot say I want to be world champion with the national team, for example, because there is a long way to go before we get there. It has to go one step at a time," he says.

He will now fight for a place in the first team against the likes of Willian and Oscar, who are Dunga favourites. Unlike the two stars Chelsea stars, Renato Augusto has not participated in any of the 12 friendlies since Dunga took charge in July 2014. 

But Brazil struggled to create chances through the middle in their 2-0 defeat to Chile last week. The returning Oscar was unable to find his groove as he ended an international injury absence dating back to March. Brazil attacked Chile with purpose down the flanks in Santiago but lacked a creative spark in the centre of the field, forcing Dunga to bring on Santos star Lucas Lima.

And with Neymar suspended and Coutinho injured, Dunga may well shuffle his pack against Venzuela on Tuesday as the Selecao look to get their first victory on the road to Russia 2018. Renato Augusto could provide the creativity Brazil lacked on Thursday. His Corinthians team-mate Elias has become a first-team regular and says his colleague has what it takes to do the same.

"Renato suffered enough, I got him in the Brazilian national team, he knows that very well," joked Elias of the duo’s partnership in the Corinthians midfield.

Another big team may well need their help on Tuesday. And Renato Augsto is ready to make the step up.