In November 2012, when he spoke to FIFA.com after establishing himself at Roma in rapid time and making the standby list for the Olympic Tournament at just 18 years of age, centre-back Marquinhos could hardly contain his delight. “If Mano Menezes (the then coach of Brazil) is watching me, I may be in line for something bigger in the future. Why not aim to be at the 2014 World Cup? I think it’s possible.”
It may have been a distant dream at the time, but one year on and the defender has been called up for the international friendlies against Honduras and Chile, one of the last squad get-togethers before Brazil’s 23-man list for the FIFA World Cup™ is announced. Marquinhos said it proved he had not set an over-ambitious goal 12 months ago.
“When I remember what I said a year ago I get goose bumps. I spoke of my dream, and today the dream has come true,” he told FIFA.com. “It’s no easy task getting into the Brazil squad, the competition is fierce. Now I have been given this chance I need to make the most of it, battle hard and show that I deserve to be there. Playing in the World Cup at 20 years of age, especially in my own country, would be amazing.”
For such a precocious youngster, perhaps it is not surprising that A Seleção coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has brought him into the fold so early. The call-up turned a calm, autumnal evening in Paris into an unforgettable night for Marquinhos. “When the Brazilian FA phoned me I had gone to bed and was about to nod off. It didn’t hit me at first, because it was not the day the squad was officially announced. But when I then received the e-mail confirming my call-up I was overjoyed. I got out of my pajamas and went to celebrate with my family.”
On the up and up
As has become the norm with Marquinhos, he had achieved another goal ahead of his time, completely skipping the U-20 age group. He has made phenomenal progress in two years. At the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 he was captain of Brazil. Two years down the line and he is vying for a spot as the fourth centre-back for A Seleção at the 2014 World Cup.
In this short period of time a series of huge changes have cascaded one on top of another, but it has been a remarkably smooth journey. From making himself a regular at Roma, to the €30m transfer to PSG, followed by his first outings as a starter for the Parisian club with critics lining up to shoot him down, nothing has hindered his meteoric rise.
“My time at Roma was unexpected but crucially important. I was very young, I was in a new country, without my family, and people didn’t know if I could do a job,” recalled Marquinhos. “But I was humble and quietly got on with it. I knew my chance would come, and when it did I had to grab it. In two months I earned my place and showed that I could be relied upon. That’s when I went from being a prospect to the real deal.”
Upon arriving in Paris, he had to contend with fitness problems and the ferocious competition for a place in the team alongside Thiago Silva, Alex and Mamadou Sakho (who subsequently moved to Liverpool). He only made his debut after both his compatriots got injured. In 11 matches as a starter Marquinhos has shown his undoubted ability, scoring three goals, including two in the UEFA Champions League, but he has also made mistakes and endured a degree of criticism, especially after errors in the draw against Saint-Etienne.
“This period in Paris has been magical, but there have been difficulties and many people had doubts about me. I’ve played some great games, I’ve scored goals, but unfortunately mistakes happen. I was disappointed with the lapse against Saint-Etienne, but I try to take the criticism on board and use it to evolve as a player. I realise I’m only 19 years old, I’ve got a lot to learn and I need to make the most of my attributes: staying calm and fighting till the very end.”
Even accounting for some mishaps along the way, Marquinhos has made the most of every chance that has come his way in his career. This week he will again have a new opportunity, but now at the highest level as he joins his new Brazil team-mates, and particularly when he comes face-to-face with Felipão. The goal will once again be to earn the confidence the coach, and to make one of the few vacancies available in the squad his own.
It is certainly one of his toughest missions but Marquinhos is intent on achieving his goal using a formula that has served him well thus far. “I’ll arrive there with humility, like I always do, showing the politeness that my parents instilled in me to try and earn the respect of the squad. I know that the off-pitch aspect is very important and that A Seleção is a family,” he said. “On the pitch it’s a question of giving 100 per cent in each training session, being myself and making the most of my chance when it comes, whether it’s one second or 45 minutes.”