ANALYSIS - Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
Brazilian football produces talent like no other nation on earth.
Between 1994 and 2007, Brazilians were named as FIFA World Player of the Year in eight of 14 editions, as Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka left a legacy for the next generation.
The new breed would be led by Neymar, who’s desire to stand alone at the top of the world football – just like his idol Robinho had so desperately craved – was no doubt influenced by growing up in an age in which a Brazilian was almost always named the best.
But the complete dominance of the award by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has left the PSG forward having to make do with a couple of third-place finishes.
First test - level reached pic.twitter.com/zuuLjLHSbJ— Brasil Global Tour (@BGT_ENG) July 20, 2018
Neymar, of course, still hopes to take the prize in the coming years, and he could well re-establish the tradition ahead of the arrival of a new generation that is causing quite a stir back home.
Generation 2000 is here. Led by Real Madrid’s €45 million teenage sensation Vinicius Junior, this year they all turn 18. Their coming of age has opened the door to their departures, too, as Paulinho has already followed Vinicius abroad, completing a switch to Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen worth over €20m.
And they are just two of those who hint at a bright future for the Selecao. The South American Under-17 Championships may fly under the radar for most followers of the Selecao, but the 2017 edition cause dplenty of excitement back home featuring what many tip to be a number of starlets who have a significant role to play in future World Cups.
It’s fair to say nobody from Generation 2000 has caused as much of a stir as young Vinicius Junior, who was officially presented as Real Madrid player on Friday. Having agreed a €45m switch to Spain before even having made a single senior appearance in senior football, Vinicius spent the last year making the transition into professional football with Flamengo.
After a tricky start, he settled and became on the club’s key players in recent months and found his goalscoring touch. The flying forward was the standout star of the Under-17 team that took the South American Championship last year, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer and best player.
A colleague of Vinicus both at youth international level and at Flamengo, striker Lincoln is another hoping 2018 will see the beginning of a bright future in the professional game. He won the Silver Ball and hit five goals in last year’s U17 title-winning campaign. A No.9 who can also drift from his position to link with those around him, he has also proved a real threat in the air and will now hope to play a role for Fla as the Brasileirao returns.
Paulinho joined Lincoln and Vinicius in this year’s Goal NxGn 50, which singles out the most promising teenagers in world foorball. He hit winners against both Spain and Germany at last year’s Under-17 World Cup as Brazil finished in third place. The 18-year-old made a significant impact for Vasco last season in the Brasileirao and is now ready to embark on a new adventure in the Bundesliga. Quick and tricky, he can operate from both flanks and boasts a powerful shot from long range.
Another versatile attacking player, Sao Paulo’s Brenner can play on both sides of the field and operate as a central striker. Bags of pace and a cool head in front of goal saw him promoted to the senior ranks of his club as a 17-year-old last year, scoring in one of this four appearances. Brazil coach Tite has certainly seen his potential – the teenager was invited to join the senior squad for some valuable experience as they prepared for this year’s World Cup in Russia.
Alanzinho may be small in stature, but he is quickly proving a giant on the field for Palmeiras. The club’s latest teenage sensation, he is a quick and intelligent No.10 with an excellent range of passing, he looks ready to break into the first team this season. He recently penned a new deal with the Verdao but Real Madrid are reported not to have bulked at his €50m release clause.
And they are just a few of the exciting members of Brazil’s Generation 2000. Atletico PR midfielder Marcos Antonio starred in a creative role alongside Alan at the U17 World Cup last year and also proved a force defensively.
Gremio’s Victor Bobsin is also tipped to have a big future, having already been labelled the natural heir to Arthur, who has joined Barcelona. Bobsin, 18, however, is certainly cut from a different cloth. Standing 1.85 metres tall, he is a more defensive minded midfielder but has the power and dynamism to drive his team forward, and has earned a plethora of admirers for his impressive tactical understanding and positional play.
Cruzeiro goalkeeper Gabriel Brazao is also making quite a reputation for himself. The 17-year-old is still too early in his development to be tipped for stardom, but he is certainly a promising prospect, impressing both in shot-stopping and his distribution. Palmeiras centre-back Vitao has also impressed, as have full-backs Weverson and Wesley.
With the majority yet to have made an impression whatsoever in the senior game, it is, of course, too early for anyone to be convinced that Brazil will have a ‘golden generation’ on the way, but there are certainly a number of positives signs for the future.
There is no doubt that it is a promising and early generation that can offer many good options for the Brazilian National Team in the not so distant future.