Brazil go into every tournament with the clear objective of claiming the title, and this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea will be no exception. If anything, the Auriverdes will be even more focused than usual, with the memories of their defeat to Mexico in the Final of Peru 2005 still painfully fresh. The squad Edgar Pereira has assembled to try to make amends for that disappointment is very much in the traditional Brazilian mould: systematic, technically gifted and extremely effective going forward.
The standard bearer for this new generation of Brazilians is Lula, the gifted Corinthians attacking midfielder who orchestrates many of the team's most dangerous moves. In typical Brazilian style, the team are quick to pounce on anything in midfield and get their wing-backs into the final third, where the likes of Maicon and Fabio are capable of inflicting maximum damage. The current crop of players underlined their enormous potential by winning March's South American U-17 Championship in Ecuador, Brazil's eighth regional title in twelve editions.
Moreover, the recently crowned continental champions have history on their side going into Korea 2007, being the only country to have won the FIFA U-17 World Cup on three occasions.
The region's qualifying tournament, held in March 2007 in Ecuador, was very much a tale of two phases for Pereira's young charges. In the opening segment, Brazil only made it out of the five-team Group A on goal difference from Bolivia, after finishing third behind Peru and Ecuador.
However, in the hexagonal final phase, the Seleção flexed their muscles and showed just what they are capable of. They started out with convincing wins over Argentina (2-0) and Peru (4-0), before securing their berths in Korea with a rout of Venezuela (4-0). With their first objective taken care of, Pereira's side could then concentrate on their quest for the title, which they duly managed courtesy of a draw with Colombia (0-0) and a comprehensive win over the hosts (5-2).
All told, Brazil won six, drew one and lost two of their nine games, posting a very impressive 29 goals while conceding 11. Leading the way with 12 strikes was Lula, the tournament's top scorer by some distance.
When Edgar Pereira, who led the Seleção to glory at Ecuador 2007, vacated his role to assume coaching responsibilities for Fluminense's junior teams in April, the CBF had no hesitation in turning to Lucho Nizzo. The 44-year-old had been in command of Brazil's U-15 and U-16 sides, leading the former to International Mediterranean Cup crowns in 2003 and 2007, and the U-16s to the same prize in 2004.
The first test for Nizzo, who has also coached at youth level for Madureira, Fluminense, Botafogo and the Malaysian national team, in his new position came at the Pan American Games Rio 2007, where the hosts fielded an U-17 side in preparation for Korea 2007. Under his guidance, Brazil impressed in their early outings before a more experienced Ecuador outfit denied them a place in the final.
Luiz Marcelo Morais dos Reis, or plain Lula, has plenty of claims to fame above and beyond sharing a nickname with the current Brazilian president. The talented attacking midfielder, born on 10 April 1990, not only features in most of the Auriverdes' best moves, he also finishes a great deal of them. Anyone in doubt need only look at his haul of 12 goals at this year's Sudamericano in Ecuador, an all-time record for the competition. A keen admirer of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho, Lula says he wants to "cement his place in the Corinthians first team and continue winning things with the national team". Korea 2007 could well see him further that objective.
What they said...
"We were in Korea for the Eight Nations tournament, so we know what to expect. It will be difficult, but our objective is to win the tournament and return home with the trophy. Our players have been working hard to prepare for this event and they are determined to succeed," Lucho Nizzo, Brazil coach.