Quick touches, triangulations, verticality and a lot of skill. In March, Brazil’s Under-17 team charmed the continent in winning the South American title.
More than just raising the trophy, the youngsters gave Brazilians a touch of nostalgia as they played in a style for which the Selecao are most membered around the world. Colombia's U-17 coach Carlos Restrepo compared them to the great Brazil sides of 1970 and 1982.
Selecao Coach Bahian Carlos Amadeu had found the right blend. His side romped to the title with seven wins, two draws, 24 goals scored and only three conceded. "I think this is the Brazilian style, the football I grew up watching with those great Brazil teams,” Amadeu told Brasil Global Tour.
“The big challenge is to meet the [stylistic expectations] of our fans and still be competitive. We did not win the World Cup in 1982 or 1986, and it seems that from that moment we went in a different direction and started all over again. I believe we must to preserve what we had.
"We have always been imitated, respected and valued by the whole world. Brazilian football has its own style of play, of daring football. We can be competitive without losing our essence.”
Carlos Amadeu has extensive experience at youth level, playing a major role in developing the process by which Brazilian clubs develop young players. He has won titles with the likes of Bahia and Vitória and, of course, the Selecao, including the U-15 World Championship.
"Despite all the challenges, I think we have been going in the right direction, particularly because of the care that is being taken to train the coaches themselves at the Brazilian Football Confederation’s (CBF) new facility, Granja Comary.
“We had an empirical approach and solid support for the courses, which took in several schools of thought from around the world. We can further deepen our knowledge and this is contributing every day to the training of young players. "
Along the same lines, Amadeu advocates forming a closer relationship between Brazilian football and European clubs, with the intention of further integrating their ideas.
"What we need to do is bring a level of competitiveness to the young players similar to that wich we find in Europe. They are playing a lot there, they participate in lot of tournaments and Brazilian clubs need invite more of these teams to us, and also visit them, in order for the exchange of ideas to take place. We have to understand more closely what is happening in world football.”
Like in many nations across the globe, a major problem in the youth ranks of Brazilian football is the low salaries paid to the coaches, which leads to many putting their own interests before the that of the players as they seek to climb the ladder and find a path into the senior game.
"This is a structural issue, and as long as we do not change the pyramid it cannot be reversed,” says Amadeu.
“We need a more balanced structure to bridge the [financial] gap between youth and senior coaches. We have to talk about visibility, of career progression and salary policies, so that these professionals are recognised and valued, so that they will remain in youth football and not feel discouraged.
“I have worked with youth teams since 1992. I have worked at senior level also, but for me it does not diminish in any way my work in training young players. I understand that compensation in our country will never be as great as it is at the professional level, but that I can survive and support my family in a dignified manner. And every time a young player stands out, it feels like a boost in salary.”
The internal battle for youth-team coaches between winning matches and developing players remains the biggest obstacle.
"I remember a tournament in Germany with Vitoria when we beat Barcelona’s U-20 side in the semi-finals,” recalls Amadeu. “After the game I spoke to the Barca coach and he said he was happy with this side, and that the result was not important because if they had won in a way that did not match the club’s philosophy then he would have failed.
"We have a culture of immediacy in Brazil, we want everything at once, but I believe that a coach should know how to reassure those above him that winning matches is not his goal, that developing players for the first-team is the real task at hand.”
Brazil’s U-17 victory in March was successful for how they won, not just what they won.