Football, artistry, samba… A Seleção. Whenever this sequence of thought springs to mind, it usually means one of Brazil’s national teams is on the road to success.
Enjoying the game is a prerequisite for footballers from the land of the Sugarloaf Mountain if they are to perform at their very best, and they have rediscovered this enthusiasm at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015. The five-time world champions face surprise package Serbia in the final in Auckland this Saturday, and the young man charged with creating the magic required to land this title is Gabriel Boschilia.
Having turned 19 just three months ago, Sao Paulo’s latest gem is very much at ease in his attacking midfield role. Having deservedly been lauded for his performances here in New Zealand, he is about to take on the biggest challenge of his career so far. “Boschilia is full of energy,” Brazil coach Rogerio Micale told FIFA.com. “He’s the one who decides the timing and rhythm of our play and knows exactly when it’s time to pick up the pace or slow things down.”
Striving for redemption
The lively youngster in A Seleção’s No8 shirt has scored two goals and provided an assist on the way to the tournament’s hotly anticipated decider, but his significance within the squad extends far beyond these simple stats. Boschilia’s exceptional skills and deep understanding of the game mean he is always available and capable of inspiring a breakthrough with the unexpected. He also possesses the kind of shooting technique that give opposition goalkeepers nightmares, but most importantly of all, Brazil’s latest starlet is determined to make amends for the country’s recent sporting history.
“We’re here to win this tournament, and we’re ready to give our all to do it,” a determined Boschilia stressed in an interview with FIFA.com before looking into the distance, pausing for a moment and adding thoughtfully: “We’re trying to restore the image of Brazilian football here. The world lost a little respect for our country’s players after what happened at the 2014 World Cup, so we want to show them that we can still produce the goods,” he said. “We’ve had players like Pele, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho – and now we’re the next generation.” It was a grand statement ahead of a grand occasion.
The world lost a little respect for our country’s players after what happened at the 2014 World Cup, so we want to show them that we can still produce the goods.
One thing that quickly becomes apparent about Boschilia is that he means exactly what he says. The young playmaker can hardly wait to use this final showdown at the North Harbour Stadium to show fans everywhere that Brazil have found their feet again and can look to the future full of optimism. Not only that, but he is determined that they should win in true A Seleção style: “I love exuberant football, but played responsibly and always with the aim of scoring goals,” he explained. “Without any clowning around but with dribbling and aggression coupled with strength in attack. That’s the football we’re putting on display here. We always want to go out and score.”
Despite this fondness for attractive play, it will be vital for Brazil to take an uncompromising approach against the fearless Serbs to secure their sixth title in this competition and draw level with current record champions Argentina. Although coach Micale is quick to point out that Manchester United’s Andreas offers a strong alternative when it comes to setting the tempo in his samba orchestra, he is also well aware that Boschilia is perfectly suited to the job in hand: “His agility and ability to permanently keep moving and ensure he’s available on the pitch is something that constantly bothers our opponents.”
The talisman’s unfinished business
As they prepare to make their ninth U-20 World Cup final appearance, there are many compelling arguments to suggest that A Seleção could once again lift the trophy they last took home from Colombia four years ago. Firstly there is the fact that they have now gone 20 matches unbeaten in this competition, or that they recently went four successive games – a total of 502 minutes – without conceding a goal. But the most remarkable factor in Brazil’s favour is Boschilia himself, acting not only as a midfield maestro but also as a footballing talisman for his homeland.
It was at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates two years ago that the 19-year-old gave his first virtuoso performances and captivated his audience. Boschilia scored six goals in his country’s first four games at the tournament before a Brazil side that had been marching in perfect step were eliminated by Mexico after losing a thrilling penalty shootout 11-10. Sao Paulo’s rising star was missing from that match, and smiles now when asked about his first experiences on the international stage and the question of ‘What if…?’
“Unfortunately I was suspended for that game, but my absence wasn’t the problem,” he recalled. “We had great players who were good enough to achieve something there – it was simply our fate,” he said, before adding: “Now we’ve in a different chapter. We’re writing it now and we’re keen for it to end with us becoming world champions in Auckland!”
The moment of truth is almost here.