Paulo Henrique Ganso’s vision on the field of play is so acute that even his team-mates are sometimes taken by surprise by the quality and precision of his passing. Fans, critics and colleagues have grown accustomed to consistently high standards from the hugely accomplished playmaker, which makes any dip in form hard to fathom. Yet, given his willingness to attempt the unexpected, it is only natural that some of his passes should fail to find their intended target.
Such was the case at the recent Copa America in Argentina, where the midfield orchestrator was below his usual supreme best for Brazil. However, as A Seleção coach Mano Menezes was quick to point out, Ganso was still responsible for setting up three of his side’s six goals in the competition.
“Mano’s always given me complete freedom, and people expect a lot of me because they know I have an awful lot to offer the national team,” Ganso told FIFA.com. “I always try to supply the strikers with the passes they need and to make their job easier. That’s what I tried to do at the Copa America but I was a bit unhappy with my performance because a lot of my passes went astray.”
With his range of passing and his elegance on the ball, Ganso has been widely tipped, along with Santos team-mate Neymar, to form the bedrock of the national team that will contest the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™. Since handing him his first cap in a brilliant display against USA last August, coach Menezes has made no secret of the fact that he sees Ganso as a vital part of his preparations for the world finals on home soil.
Injuries have hampered the playmaker’s recent development, however, starting with the torn knee ligament he picked up in a Brazilian championship game last year. Following six months on the sidelines, Ganso was back on duty for Santos only to suffer further frustration with a muscle strain. Throughout it all, however, the doors to the Brazil team have remained open for the classy No10.
“After what I did on my debut, I think Mano decided to wait and give me the time I needed to recover and then give me another chance,” explained Ganso. “I’ve got to hold on to my place now, keep on improving my game and do justice to a shirt number that everyone wants to play in.”
A talent to cherish
The expectation now surrounding Ganso goes a long way in explaining the disappointment felt across the country at Brazil’s Copa America exit against Paraguay, during which both he and Neymar were substituted.
It was prior to that game that the then Albirroja coach Gerardo Martino spoke of the threat Ganso poses to defences, having seen him at close quarters in the 2-2 draw between the two countries in the group phase, a match that ended with the Santos man teeing up Brazil’s late equaliser.
“If we’re going to keep control of Neymar, we need to mark Ganso,” said Martino. “He’s the one who passes the ball. I can’t understand how people don’t enjoy what he does. The pass he gave for Fred’s goal was high class, and not everyone can play a ball like that.”
In helping Santos lift the Brazilian Cup and the Sao Paulo state title last year, Ganso produced the kind of displays beyond the reach of most ordinary players. And even when dipping below those lofty levels, he still has the ability to shape and influence games, a quality that will no doubt serve him well in the future.
“It doesn’t matter how old we are. The fans are always going to expect big things from players who can help the national team and play the kind of football Brazilian people enjoy watching,” said Ganso, having the last word on the expectation that now follows him around. “What we need to do, then, is keep on excelling and playing expressive football that entertains people.”
As long as he continues to stroke the ball around with his now customary élan, Ganso will surely entertain for many years to come.