Hardly the most extrovert or outspoken member of this Brazil squad, Oscar chose to keep his own counsel as the doubters circled in the run-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. Ignoring the speculation surrounding a below-par end to the season at Chelsea, the potential distraction of the imminent birth of his daughter Julia – now ten days old – and the fact his place in A Seleção’s starting XI was under threat, Oscar saved his answers for the pitch.
And answer he did, emphatically, in the hard-fought opening match victory over Croatia. While it was two-goal forward Neymar who grabbed the headlines and the Budweiser Man of the Match award, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – the only man Oscar was interested in impressing – later insisted his young No11 was not far behind. “I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone,” the versatile midfielder told FIFA.com. “If I did [need to prove something], then it was only to Felipão, and he always showed total faith in me.”
Not only did the 22-year-old round off the scoring in Brazil's 3-1 victory, he was also the hosts’ most creative player, whether attacking down the flanks or through the central channel. Up against a competitive and gifted midfield featuring Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Oscar also did his fair share of defensive work, no mean feat for a player of his slight stature. How could anyone want to see talent like his warming the bench?
Scolari certainly didn't and the supremo, famed for the masterful way he man-manages his players, was granted a perfect opportunity to publicly praise his protégé after Thursday’s clash at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo: “Following the game, our scout told us Oscar intercepted more balls than any other player and was our most creative player down the right.
"He ran with the ball and instigated lots of attacks. I’m not going to just drop a player like that from one day to the next. The [man of the match] award was given to Neymar, but if there’d been another, he [Oscar] would’ve got it.”
During A Seleção Brasileira’s pre-tournament training period in Teresopolis, the coach had been repeatedly quizzed about Willian’s impact during Brazil’s warm-up encounters – games in which he was successfully unleashed in the second period – to the extent that many predicted the player would snatch Oscar’s starting berth.
“Within the camp, there was no debate,” said Scolari, safe in the knowledge his judgement had been utterly vindicated by the former Internacional creator. As can be seen in the above video, for Neymar’s first goal it was Oscar who fought to win the ball and feed the Barça forward, and it was the Chelsea man who passed to Fred prior to the penalty award. Oscar then capped a fine performance with a finish his legendary predecessor in Brazil’s No11 shirt would have been proud of.
“That’s right, it was a real toe-poke – Romario-style!" he said. "At times like that, anything goes. Most of the lads in our team used to play futsal and we learned to strike it with our toes. [Due to cramp in both legs] it was the only option I had left.
“Of course in friendly games you don’t have quite the same edge,” said Oscar, signing off by sending a gentle message to the pre-tournament doubters. “A World Cup is a different matter though, as I proved. And not just to Felipão, to the whole world.”