- Five uncapped 21 or 22-year-olds are in Tite's squad
- Among them are a showman, 'the new Xavi' and 'The Little Onion'
- Brazil’s initiation process caused the shyest of the bunch to panic
Alisson (25 years old), Ederson (25), Marquinhos (24), Casemiro (26), Fred (25), Philippe Coutinho (26), Neymar (26), Roberto Firmino (26) and Gabriel Jesus (21) all have time on their side, and Tite has summoned a selection of uncapped gems for the initiation of a new cycle aimed at Qatar 2022. As A Seleção ready for friendlies against USA and El Salvador, FIFA.com presents the five new midfielders or forwards.
Position: Defensive midifelder
Being likened to one of the greatest midfielders in history is a huge honour. Being likened to one of the greatest midfielders in history by one of the greatest players in history is a virtual cannonisation. “He’s really surprised me,” said the usually plaudit-prudent Lionel Messi of Arthur. “He’s very similar to Xavi.”
Arthur helped Gremio conquer the Copa Libertadores in 2017, joined Barcelona recently in a transfer that could rise to €41million, and has already impressed his new coach, Ernesto Valverde: “He’s intelligent, very comfortable in possession, an excellent passer. He reminds us of Xavi.” Xavi himself commented that Arthur “has Barcelona’s DNA”.
Position: Defensive or attacking midfielder
Club: Manchester United
“Three of the [semi-finalists] have a player in central midfield – De Bruyne, Modric, Pogba – who are comfortable receiving the ball from the defence, carrying it, picking out passes,” said iconic ex-wingback Junior. “Brazil didn’t have that.” Is Pereira the fix for that flaw?
Born in Belgium, where his father, forward Marcos Pereira, was playing for KV Mechelen, he excelled as an attacking midfielder at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 and during a loan spell at Valencia in 2017/18. Jose Mourinho nevertheless used Pereira as a holding midfielder during Manchester United’s recent tour of the USA and in the early part of this term, hailing his No15’s performances as “phenomenal”. The former Belgium youth international said himself: “It’s my best position.”
Position: Attacking midfielder
Think 180° back-heels, elastic nutmegs, lambrettas. Think showmanship straight from the FIFA EA Sports™ video game. Think Djalminha, Denilson, Ronaldinho, Neymar. Welcome to Brazil’s latest entertainer extraordinaire.
Paqueta is also renowned for harrying opponents, exquisite through-balls and dead-ball mastery, though whether he’ll have the courage to challenge Neymar for free-kicks remains to be seen.
Pedro and Richarlison may go at each like cat and mouse on social media – the former gets called ‘Chinny’; the latter is ‘Toucan’s Nose’ – but they’re firm amigos. So, when injury forced Pedro to withdraw from the Brazil squad, Richarlison grabbed his mobile phone and began sympathising – only to have to pause it to receive a call from Seleção co-ordinator Edu Gaspar telling him he was his buddy’s replacement!
Richarlison is an atypically Brazilian attacker. For while he possesses pace and skill, he’s also strong, all-action, direct, good with his head, and the type of player who scores scrappy goals as well as stylish ones. He was signed by Watford for £11.2m in July 2017 and sold to Everton 11 months later for a fee that could rise to £50m. And if that figure raised eyebrows, his first two assignments in blue, which included three goals, dropped them.
Position: Left-sided attacker or false No9
Despite being painfully timid off the field – “my shyness almost cost me a football career“ – ‘The Little Onion’ gave himself a booming introduction to a global audience in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 semi-finals, rising from the bench and scoring a superb solo goal to book Gremio a date with Real Madrid. Boasting pace, skill and predatory instincts, he’s netted ten goals in his last 18 appearances for Gremio and has reportedly been seducing Manchester City and Manchester United.