Luiz Felipe Scolari’s decision to bring on Fernandinho at the start of the second half of Brazil’s final Group A match against Cameroon was vindicated within a matter of minutes. The tournament hosts had been struggling to tame Les Lions Indomptables and held a narrow 2-1 lead when the Manchester City midfielder entered the fray.
It soon became 3-1, however, with Fernandinho playing an instrumental part, chesting down a clearance just outside the Cameroon box and then flicking the ball into the path of David Luiz. The Paris Saint-Germain defender had all the space he needed on the left to cross for Fred who then nodded in from close range.
The substitute did not finish there, later playing a cute passing move with Fred and Oscar and striding into the Cameroon box to shoot home his side’s fourth of the game and seal their qualification for the Round of 16.
FIFA World Cup™ debuts do not come much better, with Fernandinho’s performance proving almost as memorable for him as the events of June 2013. It was then that Brazil swept aside Spain at the Maracana to win the FIFA Confederations Cup in stunning style. And while the midfielder was not part of the five-time world champions' squad on that occasion, he has good reason to remember the month with affection - for it was then that he made a high-profile move from Shakhtar Donetsk to English giants Manchester City.
His subsequent displays in helping his new employers win the English Premier League title did not go unnoticed by Felipão, who gave the player a chance to shine in the national team. And one chance was all Fernandinho needed.
I’ve always dreamed of playing in the World Cup and wearing the Seleção jersey
Called up for a friendly against South Africa in Johannesburg three months before Brazil 2014, the 29-year-old started and scored in a 5-0 win. The next time he represented his country he would be doing so as a member of Scolari’s 23-man FIFA World Cup squad.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in the World Cup and wearing the Seleção jersey, but I knew how difficult that was, what with me playing in Ukraine for Shakhtar,” Fernandinho said to FIFA.com. “Last year, though, when I moved to England and began playing in a much bigger league with a much higher profile, I could see things coming together for me. I fought hard, chased my dream and got the call-up for the game with South Africa in March. Everything I did from June 2013 onwards was with the goal of making it here to the World Cup.”
A goalscoring debut
Getting on the scoresheet at the FIFA World Cup is always a special moment, as any player will tell you. Fernandinho is no exception, especially as his strike against Cameroon was the pick of the game’s five goals.
“Playing and scoring in the Seleção shirt in a World Cup, at home … well, there are so many things that go through your head,” he said, struggling for words as he recalled his distinguished tournament debut. “One of the biggest things for me was the excitement my family and friends were feeling at that moment. They were probably more excited than I was.
“I went back to the hotel, had a bath and tried to stay focused, while my family were at home getting congratulatory messages from everyone. I’m sure they felt more excited about the whole thing than me, but I was delighted to make them that happy.”
Fernandinho’s goal was a fine example of the kind of football A Seleção are playing right now, with the forwards pressing high up the pitch, all with the assistance of the midfielders, whose brief, in theory, is to defend rather than help out in attack.
The move began with Oscar stealing the ball and continued with Fernandinho driving forward and playing a pass into Fred. His lay-off found Oscar, whose perfect first-time pass allowed Fernandinho to break into the box and poke the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the Cameroon goal.
“Here in Brazil, we have what we call a primeiro volante: a holding midfielder whose job is just to defend,” Fernandinho said. “The thing is, most of us play our football in Europe now and we’re used to getting forward too. Midfielders there also create the play and get into scoring positions. Maybe that’s the reason why we’ve got people who can play in that position and yet still get forward to score and start moves too.”