Apart from the undoubted prestige attached to winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the international youth tournament tends to bring tremendous benefits to all teams that compete in it, especially to those that advance deep into the knockout rounds.
The competition generally represents one of the first times that players have to don their nation’s jersey on such a global stage, playing in packed stadiums and with a huge prize at stake. For this reason, the event is often seen as a good indicator of players’ ability to handle these types of pressure-charged situations.
Brazil international Oscar is an excellent example of this. Exactly a year ago today, the young attacking midfielder revealed the full extent of his talent at Colombia 2011, particularly in the 3-2 victory in the final against Portugal in Bogota, where he put in a masterful performance, scoring a remarkable hat-trick that secured the coveted trophy for his country.
The feat was all the more noteworthy given that it was the first time that a player had found the net three times in the final of a FIFA-run tournament. If Oscar appeared to have not been unduly affected by the high stakes involved, his unflappable disposition has since been confirmed by the way in which the 20-year-old has made the No10 jersey in Brazil’s senior side his own and has taken his high-profile transfer to Chelsea in stride.
“That experience in Colombia was crucial, of course, because it led to me being given a chance in the full team,” said Oscar in a post-match chat with FIFA.com during the Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012, a competition in which La Seleção would eventually earn a silver medal.
“Although it’s an U-20 tournament, the tension involved is similar to, or even greater than, what you get in many professional matches, and the same can be said of the technical level. I know that my good performances last year provided me with a gateway to the senior side. On top of that, I learned a lot,” he added.
In fact, less than a month after propelling his nation to U-20 glory over Portugal, Oscar received his first call-up to the Brazilian senior squad. He then came off the bench to make his debut in a friendly against Argentina. The midfield man’s first appearance as part of the starting line-up did not come until May of this year, however, during a friendly tour in the run-up to the Olympic Games.
It was at this point that the precocious playmaker’s full array of skills and potential to play a decisive role in key matches became evident to national coach Mano Menezes as well as to Brazil’s avid supporters, who saw in him the creative attributes the team was lacking. Still with Porto Alegre-based Internacional at the time, the Americana-born player was subsequently handed the No10 jersey.
Since then, Oscar has retained his place in the starting XI and, alongside stars such as Neymar and Thiago Silva, will now likely form the spine of the Canarinha side that will play host to the FIFA World Cup™ in 2014.
“My life has changed enormously over the last year – I’ve taken a lot of great strides, one after the other. And I’m very aware that the U-20 World Cup, and especially the final, could prove to be a landmark moment in my career. If I’ve recently confirmed that I deserve to wear the No10 shirt for Brazil, it’s because I was able to show what I could do in Colombia last year,” he concluded.