- FIFA Legend Andre Cruz played at China PR 1985
- Former defender believes Brazil will excel in organising U-17 World Cup
- Cruz visited host city Vitoria with the governor and local dignitaries
FIFA Legend Andre Cruz spent many years representing Brazil, with his long international career beginning at the FIFA U-16 World Championship. Now retired from the game, the former defender had the privilege of running out for A Seleção at the inaugural World Cup in the age category, China PR 1985, when the tournament was open to U-16 players only, before becoming a U-17 competition in 1991.
Following his international debut, Cruz went on to play for Brazil at the U-20 World Cup and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Seoul 1988 before graduating to the senior national team. The pinnacle of his Seleção career came when he was called up for the FIFA World Cup France 1998™.
“When I was a kid people used to ask me if I dreamed of playing the game professionally,” Cruz told FIFA.com. “I started out at Ponte Preta, had the chance to play at a higher level, became team captain, and then got the call from A Seleção. That’s when things started to happen in my career. It’s so great to play for Brazil. It’s the biggest thing you can hope for when you’re playing.”
Now 51, Cruz is eagerly looking forward to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™, which kicks off on 26 October. The ex-Ponte Preta, Flamengo and Milan player said he has recently been looking online for information about the 1985 competition, hoping to revive memories of his debut in the yellow of Brazil.
The former Seleção man has been following Brazil’s preparations for hosting this year’s U-17 World Cup and has every confidence in the country thanks to the experience it has now acquired in staging major sporting events.
On Thursday he made a visit to Vitoria, one of the tournament’s host cities, to check out the local facilities. Accompanying him on his trip to the Estadio Kleber Andrade was Renato Casagrande, the governor of the state of Espirito Santo; Junior Abreu, the regional Minister for Sport; Gustavo Vieira, the president of the state football federation; Marcus Vicente, the vice-president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF); Ricardo Trade, the Local Organising Committee’s operations manager; and Thiago Jannuzzi, the Local Organising Committee’s competition manager.
“It’s always important for Brazil to host a FIFA World Cup, even at the youth level," said Cruz. "It’s an opportunity for us to show that we have a good structure and organisation, that we are a country that can get things done. When it comes to organising major tournaments I can see that we’ve really come on in the last few years.”
Cruz and Brazil finished third at China 1985, losing 4-3 to West Germany in the semi-finals and then beating Guinea 4-1 in the play-off for third place.
As he explained, playing for Brazil at the youth level can pave the way for young players to break into the senior national team at a later stage of their careers: “The more contact you have with A Seleção, the more it helps your career. I was lucky enough to be part of a generation that then moved up to the full team, along with Taffarel, Bebeto, Romario, Jorginho, Branco, Ricardo Gomes and Geovani.
“I’m also one of the few players that has had the privilege of playing for Brazil at every competition from the U-16s up,” he added. “I’ve played at the U-20 World Cup, the Olympics, the Pan American Games, the Copa America, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.”