Jonathan's South African dream
Jonathan, the Cruzeiro defender who made the 2009 Campeonato Brasileirao’s team of the season as well as the best XI of several respected Brazilian publications, is no stranger to national honours. In his short career the right back has already played for the national team at all youth levels and was a member of the victorious Brazil side at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Finland 2003. Moreover, he has made more than 100 appearances in the Brasileirao, another 19 in the Copa Libertadores and already has three state championships to his name.
It is a track record that suggests Jonathan Cicero Moreira has what it takes to play for the senior side. Unfortunately, though, his best position is at right-back, leaving him to compete for Dunga’s attention with the likes of Maicon and Daniel Alves – among the best in the world in their position.
So is playing at the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa an impossible dream for him? “I can only live in hope, the player told FIFA.com. “I’m well aware that the national team has excellent options in my position. All I can do is keep working hard.”
Brazil have a friendly pencilled in against the Republic of Ireland in London on 2 March, which could well be their only full international before the 23-man-squad is picked for South Africa 2010. For someone who played no part in the four years leading up to the tournament, it is asking a lot to be given a chance now. The Cruzeiro right-back would love to be there, but is also careful not to put any noses out of joint.
“I don’t wish to take anybody’s place as I know they have secured their berths. I reckon the coach’s only doubts at the moment are at left back and up front. But it might well be that he’d like to see a few fresh faces. There’s still a lot that could happen in terms of both the national team and club football,” said Jonathan.
Knocking on the door
At the tender age of 23, Jonathan knows he has time on his side, and there is always the prospect of forcing himself into the reckoning for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, to be hosted by Brazil.
He practically grew up in the yellow of Brazil, having played for two U-15 teams, as well as at U-16, U-17 and U-20 level, and those experiences can only be of help to him in obtaining a full cap, given Brazil’s tradition of preferring players who have graduated from the youth teams. "This is important. The structure of the Seleção is familiar territory for me. Being called up for a national team is not something new for me, so it holds no fears. Everybody has their own philosophy, but for me this is a good one. This system gets the best out of the players. Indeed, that’s why I’m hopeful.”
The Auriverde juniors victory at Finland 2003 perfectly illustrates the benefit of prior experience. In the final against Spain, the young Brazilians had to square up to talents like David Silva and a certain Cesc Fabregas. “It was a difficult tournament and the final in particular was very tough. There was a huge amount of pressure but we won 1-0. It was an important moment in my career and it opened the doors to professional football.”
The value of an assist
Having shot to fame with his club after a virtuoso display against Flamengo in 2004, Jonathan has now made 187 appearances for Cruzeiro, with last season being his best to date. Not only did he find the net three times for A Raposa, his nine assists were more than that achieved by the likes of Diego Souza and Dejan Petkovic.
The defender feels that setting up goals can be just as important as scoring them. “A full-back’s main speciality is crossing or supplying the final ball. Without a doubt, it’s just like scoring. When you make a nice pass everybody congratulates you, acknowledging your role in the goal. That’s the most significant thing for a full-back.”
So what can he do to improve this season? “The best person to ask would be my coach (Adilson Batista). I have a few ideas in mind but, given the year I’ve had, I can’t complain.”
Perhaps a word of advice from other celebrated former Cruzeiro full-backs, such as the aforementioned Maicon or the Argentina 1978 star Nelinho would help. “I don’t have any contact with them. In my opinion, Maicon is the best in the world. I wish him every success and hope he’s a smash hit at the World Cup. I’ve never met Nelinho either. I know he speaks well of me and even compared me to Maicon. I was delighted to get such a compliment from one of football’s greatest full-backs.”
The Brazilian is open about his plans to move to a European league, but will this happen before he features for the Seleção? “I’ll keep my head up even if I don’t get picked for one of the next friendlies. I won honours last year and I’ll try my best to defend them. I’ll keep working away quietly at my own pace in order to get to where I want to be.”