© Getty Images

The past
Always a threat at any age level, thanks to the country’s apparently inexhaustible supply of world-class footballing talent, A Seleçãozinha head to Colombia 2011 aiming to claim their fifth FIFA U-20 World Cup title. Victors at Mexico 1983, USSR 1985, Australia 1993 and UAE 2003, the only time that the Egypt 2009 runners-up failed to appear at the competition was at Japan 1979.

The present
On the back of a potent combination of technical brilliance and steely determination, Brazil were deserved winners of this year’s South American U-20 Championship in Peru. They rounded off their campaign with an emphatic 6-0 thrashing of runners-up Uruguay in the final game of the six-team final round, with their only defeat coming against fierce rivals Argentina, after playing virtually the whole game with ten men. The competition provided a fitting showcase for Neymar and Lucas, who were later selected in the main A Seleção team that played Copa America. Because of that, coach Ney Franco will not have the two starlets in Colombia, but Brazil is far from being a two-man band.

The future
Indeed, such is the depth of young talent at his disposal, coach Ney Franco can expect an enviable selection dilemma ahead of Colombia 2011. Even with Neymar and Lucas out, Brazil can rely on Philippe Coutinho, an up-and-coming talent from Inter Milan who missed the South American tournament because of an injury. Coutinho will be Franco’s best weapon, together with Oscar from 2010 Libertadores champion Internacional. Also, midfielder Casemiro has shown great maturity since the turn of the year, leading São Paulo to important victories and being appointed by Ney Franco as one of the leaders of the team. After securing not only the title but a place at the Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, Neymar and his teammates had a lot of reasons to celebrate. "This is just the start for this generation of players,” said Neymar during the post-title celebrations. “There were no stars here. Over these past two months, we’ve been like one big wonderful family. This deserved success was the result of the work we’ve put in since 13 December (2010)."