One of the characteristics of the Brazilian national team’s reconstruction during the present World Cup cycle is the uneven distribution of quality. There is significant depth in defense (especially in the center) and in defensive midfield, but the pool becomes drastically more shallow as one goes further up the pitch. In attacking positions there is a generational gap as the veterans of yesteryear have given way to inexperienced younger players.
Many members of this lost generation who were supposed to mentor these youngsters on the international stage have either lost their way, or are not of the requisite standard for the national team. (The likes of Vagner Love, Nilmar, and Diego Souza come to mind, among others.) Then there are those have been suffered from not being in the spotlight. Most of these have never been under consideration before, but there is one man who is an exception.
He was once considered to be the future number 10 of the Selecão, but the wilderness of international football has been his abode for nearly four years now. Yet there is an argument to be made that he deserves another chance, not only because of the current dearth of creative talent, but also on merit. It’s time that Brazil remembered its forgotten son, Diego Ribas da Cunha.
This year’s Copa América is just a week away from the opening game in La Plata. In each edition of this prestigious tournament, young players have always been central to their team’s hope and dreams. Here is a selection of five players under the age of twenty-one who will be hoping to make this summer a memorable one in Argentina.
Diego Rubio (Chile)
One of the great things about the Copa Libertadores is the young players that emerge during the competition each season. One of this year’s sensations was Colo Colo’s teenage striker, Diego Rubio. The youngster didn’t play in the first three group games, but when he got his chance, he lit up the field with his enterprising play. First he scored a goal as a sub in his Libertadores debut against Santos. He followed this up by notching a scored a brace to down Deportivo Táchira. Unfortunately for Libertadores viewers, Colo Colo’s self-destruction in the final game robbed them of a chance to see the talented starlet in the knock-out phase of the competition. However, the eighteen year-old has been included in Chile’s squad to travel to Argentina. Rubio won’t be starting, but his threat off the bench will add another potent weapon to Chile’s dangerous attacking arsenal.
Tomorrow in the Serra Dourada Stadium in Goiânia, these two juggernauts of world football will clash once again. Their last meeting just under a year ago in the World Cup in South Africa was not a classic, but it was memorable for the Dutch fight back which saw them book a place in the semifinals. Now, Brazil have a chance for revenge - albeit one that is sugar-free - on home soil.
Since that heart-breaking loss to the Dutch in Port Elizabeth, the Selecão has gone through a number of changes, the most important of which was the appointment of Mano Menezes as the new coach. Menezes’ first priority was to replace Dunga’s dour, defensive, counter-attack based football with the smooth passing game that the world has come to expect from Brazil.