ANALYSIS: Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
This feels like a big week for Walace. Back in the Brazil squad for the first time since 2016, the 23-year-old re-joins the Selecao ahead of Brasil Global Tour date to rival all others, with the Superclasico de las Americas against old rivals Argentina.
But Walace is certainly no stranger to clasico baptisms of fire. In 2013, he left Florianopolis on Brazil’s west coast to travel some 500km south to Porto Alegre giants Gremio. His debut arrived just a year later – in the historic Gre-Nal clash against fierce rivals Internacional.
Walace made an immediate impression and was quickly marked out as a future star of Brazilian football. Big, strong, fit and with the technical quality and tactical intelligence to compliment his physical gifts, the youngster was labelled the modern “volante”, a holding midfielder who could do a little more than just stop the opposition.
He thrived under coach Roger Machado, becoming one of the Brasileirao’s leading players in his position and was invited to join the Selecao in 2016 and joined the squad for the Copa America Centenario in USA, replacing the injured Luiz Gustavo.
He would make just one cameo as Brazil disappointed in North America, but just a few weeks later he’d get a second chance. This time, Shakthar Donetsk refused to release Fred for the Olympic Games. Once again, Walace was drafted in.
He began Rio 2016 as a reserve, but a tactical reshuffle from coach Rogerio Micale saw him drafted in to provide protection to the back-four and he would be key to the Selecao’s first ever Olympic gold medal.
The world at his feet, Europe inevitably came calling. Walace chose Hamburg for the next step on his career path – but things wouldn’t go to plan in the Bundesliga. A disagreement with his coach over his position led to club sanctions during a difficult period in which he lived away from his wife and then his new-born daughter.
Keen to move on, start again, and be closer to his family, Walace came close to joining the team he supported as a child, Flamengo, but Hamburg refused to sanction a loan move to Rio. He would make a total of just 23 league starts over two seasons in Germany and Hamburg were relegated last season, with Walace spending the second-half of the campaign with the youth team after the fallout with his coach.
“Things don’t always go the way we want them to,” he said this week. “But I grew up as a player and a person [in Germany]. “
This past summer, he picked up and started again by agreeing a switch to Hannover in June. "I'm pleased to be starting a new phase in my career," Walace said. "I know Hannover is a football-mad city, and there are great opportunities in the team, which has clear goals for the future. I want to keep improving and show my best football. I'm dying to get going."
Walace's swift return to form has coincided with a new era for Brazil and coach Tite, who are using the Brasil Global Tour this year to trial new players. He joined the squad in London earlier this week delighted to be back and, once again, raring to go.
"I have to show everything that convinced them to hand me a return to the national team,” he said. “I think the new players have that mentality, too - everybody wants to return to the national team and make sure there are here again and again.”
The 23-year-old is now eyeing a long-term future with the Selecao and says he is desperate to make the most of what he labelled, “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
He has all the tools. He is now able to operate as a shuttling midfielder having added an attacking intent to his game and hopes his ability to fulfil a number of functions in the midfield will convince Tite to keep him around.