Uvini: I want to lift the cup
© AFP

For most national teams, a spell of two years without winning a major trophy would be no cause for alarm. Brazil are no ordinary national team, however, and such a barren run represents an eternity for a country accustomed to amassing titles wherever it goes.

Since Lucio hoisted the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 aloft, the Brazilians have registered one failure after another. After A Seleção exited the last FIFA World Cup™ at the quarter-final stage, Marta and Co came up short at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 and, most recently, the country’s teenagers lost out in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011.

Bruno Uvini has the chance to end the trophy drought when he leads the South Americans out in Saturday’s final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 against Portugal, a prospect he is clearly looking forward to.

“I feel very proud to be captain of this team and naturally I’m hoping to win the title,” the well-built central defender told FIFA.com. “I want to be the one who lifts the cup for the fifth time for Brazil.”

Like many of his compatriots, Uvini grew up watching Brazil dominate the world, drawing inspiration from the sight of fellow skippers Carlos Alberto, Dunga, Cafu, Lucio and the like stepping up to collect trophy after trophy. “I dreamed of being like them. I admired them,” he continued. “But I also admired other captains from other countries winning big competitions. I hope I can do something similar and earn a place in Brazilian football history.”

Standing well over 6’ tall, the muscular Uvini has an imposing look about him and the physique to dominate many an opposing striker on the ground and in the air. Those qualities will come in handy when his side take on the Portuguese in a game that means much to him.

“This is a dream for me,” he said. “My aim was to reach the final but it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s going to take a while for me to take it all in, and though we still have a big step to take, it would be beautiful to finish it all off by winning the title.”

A point to prove
There is another reason behind Uvini’s desire to come out on top on Saturday. While Neymar was inspiring Brazil to the South American title back in April, the centre-half was watching events unfold at home, nursing the injury that had forced him to limp out of the tournament. Though delighted to see his team-mates prevail, he was nevertheless disappointed not to be there to collect the silverware.

“Yes, to be honest it does rankle a little,” he admitted. “I would have loved to be on the podium lifting up the trophy although I do feel as if I contributed to the title. All I want to do now is make up for it.”

The question is, can he handle the expectation generated by Saturday’s final? “Brazilian players grow up with that,” he replied, laughing off the pressure. “When you play for Brazil you know that there is going to be a lot of expectation coming with it. This country has a long tradition of winning things so you’re prepared for that when you come into the set-up.”

As the skipper, Uvini is perfectly placed to assess the key factors in Brazil’s march to Saturday’s showpiece: “Aside from the jogo bonito, we also play with our hearts, which I think makes a difference. We’ve battled in every game and stuck together like a family, helping each other out. I think that’s the key.”

Shouldering the burden
That team spirit is plain for all to see and has come about thanks to some hard work on the part of the Sao Paulo player. “It’s part of my job,” says Bruno, who will return to O Tricolor Paulista once the tournament is over. “It’s my job to help keep team spirit high on and off the pitch. It’s a big responsibility, but a lovely challenge at the same time too.”

Fellow central defenders Miranda and Alex Silva have both left Sao Paulo recently, and should Uvini collect the FIFA U-20 World Cup this weekend, it will do his hopes of succeeding them at the heart of the Tricolor rearguard no harm at all.

“I’m just thinking about A Seleção right now,” he said, keeping his mind on the job in hand. “That said, I’ll be doing all I can to win a starting place when I go back. It would be fantastic to win this title, go back to Brazil with a first-team place assured, and play at the Club World Cup some day. Not everyone achieves that at my age.”

Should he do so, no one will be happier than his father, who runs the academy where Bruno took his first steps in the game. A central defender in his playing days and now a coach, Uvini Sr chats on a daily basis with his son about all things football. “He’s my advisor and my best friend,” said the Brazil captain. “I owe most of my success to him.”

And there are no prizes for guessing who Bruno will be dedicating victory to if Brazil emerge victorious at El Campin: “To my mother and him, who mean more than anything else to me. I’ve got their names written on my boots, which says it all. I want to go down in the country’s football history and dedicate our fifth U-20 world title to them.”