Winning global titles and playing ‘jogo bonito’ cannot start early enough for Brazilian internationals. Indeed, from a total of 13 FIFA U-17 World Cup campaigns to date, A Seleçãozinha have triumphed three times and finished on the podium on a further six occasions. On an individual note, Brazil players have twice won the competition’s Golden Ball, with William and Anderson picking up the award at China 1985 and Peru 2005 respectively. Allied to the fact that the Brazilians have only failed to appear at one edition of the global showpiece, at Japan 1993, their pedigree at this level is undeniable.
Picking from a list of players born between 1994 and 1995, coach Emerson Avila helped guide Brazil to their tenth South American U-17 title from 14 attempts. Yet despite this latest demonstration of Brazil’s prolific ability to produce talented youngsters, they made hard work of achieving continental success on Ecuadorian soil. After a shaky start to their campaign, Avila’s youngsters came into their own in the six-team final round when recording victories in their last four matches – including the 3-2 win over Argentina in their last game which sealed the title. And despite showing a certain vulnerability when defending high balls into the box, Brazil more than made up for it with a potent attack that struck a tournament-best 22 goals.
Coach Avila came into his role at the request of the Brazilian FA’s (CBF) incoming youth national-team coordinator Ney Franco, who has been working closely with senior Seleção boss Mano Menezes. “Working with the Brazilian national team is a privileged position, but you’re also subject to a lot of criticism. This title proves that the restructuring has worked,” said Avila who, after a great deal of chopping and changing, appears to have found a settled squad. But can they rise to the challenge at June/July’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico? “It’s always good to come up against other schools of football,” said Avila.