• He is one of the key players in the Brazil squad at India 2017
  • He ended the South American U-17 Championship with two goals and two assists
  • He was only 16 when he made his top-flight club debut

The first thing that strikes you about Paulinho, one of the young Brazilians promising to shine at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, is his versatility. A brief look back at his individual highlights from the South American qualifying tournament is all it takes.

One moment, he is bursting past his marker on the right wing to set up a goal; the next, he is providing a delicate finish from the centre-forward position. One moment, he is firing in a thunderbolt from outside the area; the next, he can be seen halting a counter-attack, as he wins the ball back on the left flank.

“I’m a striker, but I’ve also played at full-back and in midfield. Hence the versatility,” the attacker calmly explained to FIFA.com. “Playing in different positions has added more vision to my game. So I can do a job for the team, wherever the coach asks me to play.”

Fact file

  • Full name: Paulo Henrique Sampaio Filho
  • Date of birth: 15 July 2000
  • Favourite hobby: "Playing video games before matches. It relaxes me and helps me to focus.”

Paulinho emerged as a key component of a Brazil side that put together an almost flawless qualification campaign in Chile, picking up 23 out of a possible 27 points on their way to the regional title.

“We know that we had a great tournament, and that the squad here is practically unchanged, but that’s in the past now,” he added from Kochi, where Brazil will open their tournament against Spain on Saturday. “We’ve already moved on. We’re working hard to produce even better football here.”

Although "practically unchanged”, the squad has nonetheless been hit by the absence of Vinicius Jr. The top scorer and player of the tournament at the South American U-17 Championship, the forward has not been released for the U-17 World Cup by his club side Flamengo.

Paulinho was keen to emphasise the importance of the collective, however, and points out that the core of the team has been together since U-15 level. “We know each other really well,” he underlined. “We’ve already played five tournaments together. At a World Cup, having that level of understanding within the group is important.”

The pros and cons of being one of the favourites
“On the plus side, it’s recognition for all the good work that we’ve been putting in over the last two years. The down side is that the other teams study us more closely and know us better.”

The opening game against Spain
“It’s a match between two heavyweights, two very big teams that are arriving as regional champions. It will definitely give us an idea of where we stand in the tournament, and them too. It’s our first match, so it’s our first final.”

The stat
2 - Number of goals scored and assists made by Paulinho in the South American qualifying tournament in Chile. He started eight of nine games for Brazil in the tournament.

Past and present

  • Paulinho on his love for football: “My dad always loved football, and used to take me to play all the time. I started when I was seven years old and my passion for sport grew quickly from there.”
  • Paulinho on making his debut for Vasco de Gama: “I was so happy to make my club debut when I was 16. I’d only been going for two weeks when I scored my first goals. What’s happening is a dream come true for me and my family, but I want more.”