Despite Vinicius Jr being held back by his club in Brazil, the South Americans are still fielding a sturdy, sensational squad for the U17 World Cup
Brazil were back to their entertaining selves again, as they cruised their way into the U17 South American championships, a couple of months ago. But the biggest challenge lays ahead, and the U17 World Cup campaign is set to be the tournament of dreams for these youngsters.
Carlos Amadeu’s Brazil U17 side has stolen a lot of media attention thanks to its ‘Brazilian’ style of play, relying on short passing, creativity, quick transition and organized team-plays. Chile’s manager even compared it to Pelé’s Brazil 1970, claiming that both sides were stylistically extremely similar, and shared several common points.
Amadeu has been preparing the national team since 2015, a two-year plan that has so far paid dividends as they face Spain on Saturday in India. The Brazilian boss has always emphasized the system that has been implemented, and insists that no individual is irreplaceable. Collective play has to prevail. The veteran identifies his Brazil side, as a team that likes to maintain possession and play offensive football.
Brazil U17 has looked like a very cohesive unit over the past few games, but had to rely on moments of Vinicius Junior’s brilliance to make the difference. The rising sensation was the leading goalscorer, the best player, and the champion of the recent South American championships.
Technical coordinator Edu Gaspar had a pre-agreement with Flamengo, that Vinicius would be allowed to play the World Cup, in case the Carioca side won the Brazilian cup final against Cruzeiro. But despite initially including the 17-year-old in the official squad for the tournament, the Mengão eventually refused to release him.
It seems extremely unfair, as it would have been a golden opportunity for the future Real Madrid man to test himself against the world’s best players of his age-category. Besides, half the tournament would have been played during the FIFA date, where Flamengo do not have any scheduled games. In addition to that, it is worth noting that Vinicius is considered a bench player at his club, and usually solely relies on second-half cameo appearances.
With this exclusion, another problem emerged. Brazil was not allowed to replace Vinicius, because the deadline to submit the squad had already passed. However, the youngster has just picked up an injury in league action against Ponte Preta, and is officially declared unable to play. As odd as it may sound, FIFA have consequently allowed the CBF to choose a replacement – São Paulo attacker Helinho.
Brazil has several influential key players to rely on. Palmeiras jewel Alanzinho was the brain of the team in the past few games, operating in a creative central role. With his close control and vision, he can often be the difference-maker. It is no coincidence that he has been handed the prestigious number ten shirt.
Meanwhile, the front three is nothing short of spectacular. Vasco forward Paulinho scored a brace on his first-team debut, and will once again be ready to guide Brazil, whereas Flamengo central attacker Lincoln offers more than just goals. Lincoln has remarkable hold-up play, can play with his back turned to goal and has the ability to set-up teammates with interesting layoffs. Meanwhile, São goal-scoring machine Brenner will be the one who benefits the most from Vinicius’ absence. This Brazilian attack is on paper, one of the very best in the competition and has the potential to surprise many.
Team captain Vitão has confirmed in his joint press conference with Amadeu, that Brazil will focus on the players under his disposal and has the quality to make up for Vinicius Junior’s absence. Even when he is not present, the Flamengo starlet is still grabbing a lot of attention. Will the Seleção stumble without him, or will his teammates make up for it, as the collective prevail? Looking at the overall quality of this side, I would bet on the latter.