Football is, to Brazilians, an obsession that is deeply ingrained in everyday life. So, when a Seleção crashed out of the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals last year, Brazilians were devastated. And when they missed all four of their penalties in a last-eight shoot-out defeat in the recent Copa America, they felt humiliated. Not even a handsomely hyped U-17 cast could relieve the sombre mood attached to the team in the canary-yellow shirts, losing 3-0 to Uruguay in a semi-final they were expected to walk last month.
Brazilian football desperately craved a lift. It was one hurdle away from receiving one heading into the FIFA U-20 World Cup final. Seventy-eight minutes into that match, having fallen behind after Oscar's deflected opener, they trailed 2-1 to Portugal. Brazil needed a hero. They found one. Oscar equalised to take an enthralling contest into extra time, before making it 3-2 to Brazil with 111 minutes on the clock. And that's how it finished, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in an U-20 World Cup final.
“It's an incredible moment in my life,” Oscar told FIFA.com. “To win the World Cup and to score the goals that did it is just indescribable. I believe I've had a really good World Cup, but the goals weren't going in for me and that gets you a lot of recognition. It was difficult for me because I have been playing through an injury for the last four matches. But today I managed to produce that defining performance, to play well and to score, so I'm very happy.”
“There was enormous emotion in the dressing room. Obviously our dream was close to being over, so that adds to it. We're really happy we managed to come back and give some joy to the Brazilian people. With the World Cup and the Copa America [disappointments], it's been a difficult year for Brazilian football. This title will give us a lift as we build towards 2014.”
Fortunately Oscar came to our rescue. There are no words to describe his performance. He's been outstanding for us all tournament.
tRight-back Danilo, who was called into the senior Brazil squad earlier in the week, concurred with his team-mate: “Brazilian football was suffering. We've had some really difficult moments over the last year or so. Football is everything in Brazil, and nothing short of [winning a tournament] is close to being good enough.
“We came here really wanting to bring happiness back to the people. We've managed to do so, and hopefully the senior side will be able to build on this. These past few days have been the best of my life. To get called up by Mano Menezes and then to win the U-20 World Cup is just amazing.
“Our victory is a real achievement. We were 2-1 down, there was little time remaining, and Portugal are very difficult to score against. But fortunately for us Oscar came to our rescue. There are no words to describe his performance.
“He's been outstanding for us all tournament. Henrique's had a brilliant tournament too, and scored five goals, but without wanting to take anything away from him I think Oscar has been the best player of the whole tournament.”
Brazil captain Bruno Uvini added: “[Oscar's] an incredible passer, but I've always seen him scoring lots of goals. It took a while for him to score in this competition, but I think he saved them all for the final. He was wonderful in this tournament, he really deserves congratulating. He deserved the Golden Ball, him and Henrique.”
And not even the prestigious award's recipient begged to differ. When asked who he thought deserved the prestigious award, Henrique responded: “I think I would choose Oscar, who had an excellent tournament. He helped the team a lot, playing in an unaccustomed position. He marked well, he got forward. He made a lot of assists, and scored the goals in the final which not anybody could have done. I think he deserved the [adidas Golden Ball] as much as I did.”
And while that Golden Ball will forever remain the property of Henrique, 20 August 2011 will eternally belong to Oscar.