Though one of the quieter and more understated performers in the Brazil side here at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Oscar’s maturity and exceptional ability to make A Verde e Amarelo tick and create goalscoring chances has positioned him as one of A Seleção’s leading men thus far.
Currently thriving on the respect of his coach and team-mates, the playmaker from Porto Alegre side Internacional is determined to repay that faith with yet another highly effective display in Brazil's quarter-final match with Spain. Ahead of a game in which the player believes “would have been a fitting final” and could as well provide a timely boost to the Brazilian game, Oscar took some time out to speak with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: What really stands out about this Brazil side is their firepower and the sheer number of chances they create. Where did this all stem from?
Oscar: This attacking style goes all the way back to our training period (prior to the 2011 Sudamericano U-20 in Peru) held at Granja Comary (the Brazilian FA’s training centre). We really are a very attacking team. Sometimes we go forward with eight players, which is why we can also leave ourselves very open to being hit on the break. At this stage of the tournament we need to be more careful, rein ourselves in a bit.
Here at Colombia 2011 and in the Sudamericano you’ve had quite a free role, dropping back when required but always looking to pick out passes and start moves. Does coach Ney Franco give you any specific instructions?
No, he gives me a lot of freedom, because he knows I’m always looking to play passes and to try and find gaps. And the team believes in me, they make plenty of runs as soon as I get on the ball. The only thing the boss asks me to do is to drop back and help defend when we lose possession. But it’s the same thing I was doing at the Sudamericano, when I was creating chances for Neymar and Lucas. And it worked: they scored goals and really stood out. Now I’ve played well at the World Cup too, I hope there are more good things to come.
It’s also noticeable that while you keep playing well, you’re not getting carried away and there’s not been too much hype about you. Is that the case?
Yes, but I’m gradually starting to get more recognition for the way I play, people are seeing that my standards are consistently high. But being the centre of attention isn’t what I’m after, I just want to play for the team, do my bit and put our strikers through on goal.
You’re clearly happy with your recent form at national-team level and with club side Internacional, where you’ve finally cemented a first-team spot. Do you think this could be the year you fulfil all your potential?
I think so, everything’s been going well so far. I started the year well with A Seleção when I had a great Sudamericano, then I went back to Inter and continued to grow as a player. I had some excellent games in the Copa Libertadores and in the Brazilian league. I was part of the team that won the state championship and became an integral part of the side. And that’s what I always try to do: be consistent and play at the highest level. And who knows, why shouldn’t I dream of playing for Brazil’s senior side one day?
You got married not so long ago. Has settling down at a relatively young age had a positive impact on your footballing career?
Definitely. A lot of people questioned my decision, but I think it was the best thing I’ve ever done. My wife back in Porto Alegre really supports me, my family life is excellent and it’s been really important for my career. I’m a very focused and easy-going guy, I don’t like to be in the limelight. Though, of course, sometimes you can’t avoid it after a good performance. But here in the national squad everyone likes me, because they know what I’m like and they respect the fact I’m doing very well at Inter. They all believe in me.
Does the fact you’re married ever get in the way of the banter in the squad, given that most of the players are still single?
No, not really. They just try not to talk about women too much around me, as if I shouldn’t be listening to that kind of stuff because I’m married! (Laughs) But it’s all in good humour, and it’s really important to have banter in a squad that’s aiming to achieve something big. And of course, everybody here is different with their own peculiarities. I’m married, some of the lads have children - it’s just a case of knowing where everyone’s coming from.
You are now set to face Spain in the quarter-finals, who are another team that like to attack. As you’ve already mentioned, you’ll have to be careful not to get caught on the break won’t you?
No doubt about it. We were already expecting to meet them, we predicted we’d come up against Spain early on. It’s a game between two great teams and I think it would have been a fitting final. It’ll be a footballing clássico and when it comes to clássicos there’s no margin for error. So, first of all we need to make sure we’re solid at the back because, if we can keep things tight, I’m sure our forwards will put away any clear chances that come their way. It’ll be a very difficult game, tougher than the Saudi Arabia match. But we’re confident, united, very focused and have everything we need to put in a good performance. It’s a shame that one of these sides will have to exit so soon, I just hope it’s not us.
Spain have been thriving at all age levels in recent years, but Brazil remain global forces on the U-20 scene. Do you think this U-20 Seleção need to win to give the senior side a boost?
The lads have been chatting about that. The senior side had a very tough Copa America, so I think that we’ve now got an even greater responsibility to help them and to do justice to Brazil’s footballing tradition. Everybody here’s really focused on going after this title, which would really mean a lot to Brazil. It’d mean a lot to us too, because of the 2014 World Cup on home soil. If we’re crowned champions (at Colombia 2011), everyone will know we’re a generation of players with a winning mentality.