When last year’s U-17 Rio Grande do Sul state championship final between Gremio and Internacional ended in violent scenes, there were two players who stood apart from the mayhem: Tricolor midfielder Misael and Os Colorados' Marlon Bica.
“Everyone was fighting and the police had to come on and everything,” recalled Marlon, in conversation with FIFA.com. “Gremio won the first leg and Inter the second, though it was Gremio who won the championship. One of their players, who hadn’t even been playing, ran on the pitch shouting and having a lot to say for himself. So one of our players hit him and all hell broke loose. I looked over at Misael, whom I’ve been friends with for a long time and just shrugged my shoulders in amazement. We hugged each other and stood there watching. Fighting’s a waste of time.”
On national duty together at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, the two have had the chance to forge an even closer bond. And following Thursday’s semi-final defeat to Uruguay in Guadalajara, Brazil need all the unity they can get, especially with a match for third place to come against Germany at the Azteca on Sunday.
Looking out for each other
The Gre-Nal duo, who could well be providing Brazil’s midfield ballast in that game, teamed up for the first time in a friendly between the Rio Grande do Sul state side and Uruguay, and were then paired together in the Brazil side that won the South American title in Ecuador this spring.
Prior to that they had always lined up on different sides of the halfway line. “We’ve played against each other eight or nine times,” explained Misael. “We know each other’s game, which has given us a good base for playing together.”
The two certainly do seem to complement each other well. Shorter than his team-mate by seven centimetres, the strongly built Misael has all the makings of a classic holding midfielder, and his tireless running has belied the fact that he was suffering muscular problems before the start of the tournament. Sidekick Marlon, meanwhile, likes nothing more than having the ball at his feet.
“He’s more of a skilful midfielder who helps organise play, whereas marking is more my strong point,” explained the Gremio teenager. “We know how to play together though. He goes forward and I stay put.”
Yet, there are occasions when the two switch roles, with Misael foraging forward and Marlon hanging back to cover. “He’s quicker than me so he gets forward and tries to exploit openings,” said the Internacional player.
Marlon’s status as an organiser and orchestrator is another reason for his withdrawn position in the centre of the field. In a team not short on fast and nimble players, he is the one responsible for slowing things down when necessary.
“There are times when everyone’s running around a lot and we need to calm down, especially when we’re in the lead,” said Brazil’s metronome. “It’s important to keep possession and open up the play. That way you don’t run about as much and you conserve your energy. You need to use your head at times like that.”
Porto Alegre’s magnificent seven
The twosome are not the only Gre-Nal players in Emerson Avila’s 21-man squad. Joining Misael from Gremio are centre-half Matheus and left-back Jonathan, while Marlon has three Internacional team-mates in the squad: goalkeeper Jacsson, right-back Claudio Winck and striker Nathan.
“We joke around a lot and we’re very close,” said Marlon, discussing the sense of togetherness among the Porto Alegre contingent. “A lot of the time we actually joke around more with the Gremio guys than the Inter ones, which is funny.” Those sentiments were echoed by Misael: “There’s no reason to fight. A Seleção’s like one big family and people don’t have clubs here.”
Both players hope that harmony will endure when their club rivalry resumes. “The same thing should happen when we face each other in the state championship,” said Misael. “Marlon and I have never joined in the fighting and whenever it happens on the pitch we prefer to have a chat instead and set an example for others. At the end of the day, we’re friends.”