“My job was to score,” said Jean Carlos of the instruction he was given as he walked onto the pitch for the second half, the determination to succeed etched on his face. Brazil’s star striker had been forced to watch from the bench as his team-mates were frustrated by Korea DPR’s deep and tightly packed defence for the first 45 minutes, but before long the 19-year-old had a chance to prove his worth. In two remarkable moves, he turned into the opposition’s penalty area, shook off two opposition defenders and fired home his team’s much-needed and ultimately decisive second goal.
Jean Carlos’s introduction after half-time and the change in tactics that accompanied it proved to be the turning point for A Seleção. “The coach said we should form a four-man attacking line and try to push forward with the ball as much as possible,” the Real Madrid player told FIFA.com in the catacombs of the Christchurch Stadium after his side’s 3-0 win. “And he said to me that we should play as if it were futsal: whenever there’s the space to shoot, I should do it. So that’s what I did,” said the youngster. Having helped to ensure that the South American title favourites go into the last 16 with a perfect record, he added with a grin: “You know, I’ve been playing futsal since I was little. I love it!”
The Brazilians are enjoying their stay in New Zealand so far, radiating enthusiasm whenever they step onto the pitch – and it is for exactly this reason that Jean Carlos’s substitute appearance and goal carry such symbolic weight. “For me football is an attacking game,” Rogerio Micale told FIFA.com. “I love technically adept play and offensive moves made up of many short passes, and I’ve been trying to pass that on to my players ever since I became coach.” Despite only taking charge of his young side a few weeks before the start of the tournament, the Brazil U-20 boss can now be confident that his philosophy has taken hold after his team completed the group stage flawlessly.
A Seleção captivated the 15,000 fans watching on Sunday, while their players are also embracing the strategy of always pushing forward, passing the ball around in the final third and waiting for scoring opportunities to appear. “For me as a striker it’s a pleasure to be able to play in a team like this,” emphasised Jean Carlos. “It means we forwards get plenty of chances to score. We’ve said in our discussions with the coach that we’re hoping to be the Brazilian football generation who can return to even more attacking ways.”
Amid all this euphoria, Micale is trying to take things step by step. “Brazil are considered title contenders whenever they play at a tournament,” he said. “And yes, based on our matches so far I think we can dream about winning the trophy – but that’s all. The competition has now entered a phase where every mistake is mercilessly punished, so we’d be well advised to take things one game at a time,” the coach explained. His team now face Uruguay in the last 16 this Thursday, and Micale is excited at the prospect, saying, “That’ll be a real derby!”
Jean Carlos, who plays on the wing for Madrid and has only featured for the club’s U-19 side so far, is already looking forward to being granted licence “to shoot” again next time around. With the latest crop of Brazilians bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, Uruguay cannot say they have not been warned...