Brazil is the winner of 11 World Cups across all levels. They have 5 Fifa World Cups (the most of any nation), 4 Fifa U-20 World Cups (second most), and 3 Fifa U-17 World Cups (tied for first). They are the perennial favorites. Not only that, but they manage to do it with the adoration of the rest of the world, with many taking them as their adopted “second team”. If there was ever a perfect example for an artistic factory, Brazilian football is it. Their motto is ‘jogo bonito’, and in Brazil there is a saying about the so-called beautiful game: “The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it”.
The Brazil U17 team entered the World Cup this past June after an impressive win in the U17 South American competition in March. In that tournament, star players Lucas Piazón (who had just recently been signed by Chelsea) and Adryan led Brazil to four wins and one draw, including a 3-2 victory over rivals Argentina in the final match. Expectations were that the two could lead Brazil to victory in the World Cup, with a solid supporting cast alongside them.
The team managed a respectable run to the semi-final, with some impressive displays along the way and even though a disappointing exit (a 3-0 loss to Uruguay, followed up by a 4-3 loss to Germany for the third place spot) left a bad taste in the mouth, coach Émerson Ávila and Brazil still have plenty to be happy with.
Adryan – Attacking Midfield Playmaker
Adryan was Brazil’s best player of the tournament, and arguably the best from any nation. The 16 year old Flamengo youth star is a classic Brazilian #10: a central playmaker with vision, delightful passing, abundant flair and skills, and mastery of set-pieces. That he was suspended for Brazil’s elimination to Uruguay in the semi-final is telling, and his 5 goals in the competition earned him the Bronze Shoe. He dictated the tempo of every Brazil game he was involved in, dropping deep to pick up the ball when needed, and distributing it forward with a footballing eloquence that is hard to find in players so young. He repeatedly provided his teammates with excellent passes, and often got into dangerous areas himself. His delivery from set-pieces, both direct and indirect, was the cherry on top. If there is a single name you remember from reading this article, make it his, since a bright future surely awaits.
Lucas Piazón – Support Striker/Attacking Midfield
Lucas Piazón, probably the biggest name of the tournament because of the £10 million (dependent on clauses) Chelsea paid for the 17 year old, was Brazil’s second biggest attraction. Given a relatively free role by Ávila, Piazón was able to roam the field, playing everything from winger, to striker, to central playmaker. Although he showed flashes of brilliance at times, his displays tended to be inconsistent in quality. He could go from one play showing fantastic vision and a deft touch, to misplacing a pass badly in the next move. Footballing talent is clearly there, both technically and intelligence wise, and if he can learn to stay focused throughout the match, he could become quite a player. The good news for Chelsea fans is that he appears to be a grounded and dedicated player, never giving up and surprisingly physical when necessary.
Ademilson – Striker
The man responsible for the goalscoring up top was Ademilson. The diminutive São Paulo striker was a late inclusion in the squad and a surprising starter for the team, with Leo, Brazil’s top scorer in the U17 South American earlier in the year, relegated to the bench. Ademilson took his opportunity and ran with it, becoming joint top scorer for Brazil with 5 goals, alongside Adryan. He scored several impressive goals, and his all action displays made him one of Brazil’s key players. Very quick and with great balance and reflexes, Ademilson troubled defenses constantly. Although his shooting was sometimes erratic, he played the odds and would occasionally land a beauty. Accurate and powerful shooting from range made him dangerous anywhere near the box, and he also started linking up superbly with Adryan and Piazón as the tournament went along. Perfectly weighted (and on more than one occasion, back-heeled) give and goes showed his vision and awareness, to the delight of the watching crowds. His biggest flaw is playing with his back to goal, sometimes not protecting the ball closely enough. Given his short size this is unsurprisingly difficult, but nonetheless a skill he will need to master if he is to continue playing his position.
Leo – Striker
The benched Leo still had a role to play, and he came on as a substitute often, before being given starts against Japan and Uruguay with the back-to-back suspensions of Lucas Piazón and Adryan. Although his work-rate can sometimes be questioned, given his penchant for casually moving about the field, his skill can not. A physical center forward, he is strong in the air and also surprisingly technical given his stature. Although not the fastest in the world, he seems to come alive when he smells an opportunity. He leads you from frustration to admiration when he doesn’t seem to chase down a winnable ball, but then the next moment outmuscles two defenders and picks out a teammate expertly. His shooting is powerful, but mostly accurate, and it should hopefully not be too long before he makes his Cruzeiro debut.
Guilherme, Marlon Bica, Misael – The Midfield Trio
The rest of the midfield cast consisted of central-midfielder Guilherme, and the more defensive minded duo of Marlon Bica and Misael. Guilherme provides decent creativity, although with inconsistent passing, but some more muscle and hustle in the center of the pitch. He did show great technique at times, and can be a dangerous long-range shooter. Bica is the most tactically astute of the bunch in terms of defensive positioning, often being at the right place at the right time after observing play build. He intercepts the ball often, but could add more of a physical bite to his game to intimidate opponents. When he wins the ball back he occasionally powers forward, showing good dribbling skills to beat players, but often becoming over-zealous and not passing soon enough. Meanwhile Misael is the ball-winner, running all over the place to make challenges, and occasionally getting forward with a determined run. His skills are nothing to write home about, but he is a hard worker and his dedication to the cause made him a valuable asset to the team.
Wallace – Right Back
In the back four, the stand-out player is
right-back wing-back Wallace. The attack-minded Fluminense man continues the series of quality full-backs the Rio club has produced in recent times (Marcelo, Rafael, Fabio). It is also worth mentioning Chelsea own 50% of the rights to the player as part of the deal that took Deco to Fluminense. Short, but built like a tank, Wallace is deceptively quick with superb acceleration. He also seems to instinctually know when to make a run forward, launching at the perfect moment to bring instant goal-scoring danger to the opposition. His fantastic stamina also means he embarks on these runs often, and also makes the trek back defensively when needed. He unfortunately struggles with the ball when not bombing down the right though, showing that his creative vision is rather limited. This makes him rather one-dimensional, and he will need to improve the rest of his game if he is to succeed as a player.
Matheus & Marquinhos – The Centre Backs
The two center backs for the team are Matheus and captain Marquinhos. The former is strong in the air and thus important for corners at both ends of the pitch. He is physical, but a bit slow, and his reading of the game can be questioned at times with some poor decision making at the back. Marquinhos brings more of a calming presence and is the better tackler, but not nearly as strong in the air. His long strides make him look slower than he actually is. Both players are solid, but neither has done enough to particularly stand out as anything special.
Emerson – Left Back
The most unremarkable player of the side is left-back Emerson. Although he has above average technique and can occasionally beat a marker, he lacks confidence and attacking awareness. He doesn’t seem to quite know when to make runs forward, and when he does it tends to be at an inopportune moment, which is in stark contrast to Wallace at the opposite flank. Defensively he is also nothing more than average, putting in the challenges you’d expect him to win, but often looking troubled when a more skilful player runs at him. He also doesn’t read plays well, often prepared for the immediate danger, but caught by surprise by the follow-up opponent move.
Charles – Goalkeeper
The man between the posts for Brazil was Cruzeiro keeper Charles. He is another one that showed enough to warrant attention, making some huge (and acrobatic) saves and at times single handedly keeping his team in games. Although he did have the occasional gaffe, the most glaring of which the penalty given away to Uruguay in the semi finals, it is to be expected from such young players, especially goalkeepers. His reflexes are sharp, and he maintains high levels of concentration throughout matches. He also seems to be a leader on the pitch, with his booming voice often heard marshaling his defenders around.