FIFA U-17 WC: When Vinicius’ absence didn’t stop Brazil

The combination of Brenner, Lincoln and Paulinho brought Brazil all six of its goals in the mega event; there are signs of more exploits.

From left: Brenner, Lincoln and Vitinho of Brazil celebrate a goal against Niger at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, in Goa on Friday.   -  PRASHANT NAKWE

When Vinicius Junior came to India last year for the BRICS Cup, he wasn’t discussed as much. But his absence in the FIFA U-17 World Cup — reportedly due to a knee injury — made him a talking point. However, the Selecao's attacking trident of Lincoln, Paulinho and Brenner have ensured that such talk is confined to the press room. As coach Carlos Amadeu puts it, “Brazil does not miss players who aren't here.”

Vinicius' stock was built on the back of his million dollar transfer to Real Madrid. But Lincoln is different. He is a classic No. 9 similar to the original Ronaldo. It's a position the Brazil senior side struggled to fill for almost a decade. It is only now that they have Gabriel Jesus as a world-class option. Lincoln has a long way to go, but it is easy to see why there is so much buzz.

“He is devilish!” Brazilian legend Zico recently said of Lincoln. “He has all the ability to be the future No. 9 for my Flamengo.” Zico is arguably the greatest-ever footballer to have played for Flamengo and his word does carry wait.

On the other hand, Paulinho and Brenner are modern-day shuttlers — as adept at ripping apart defences as they are at taking up extremely intelligent positions. Paulinho's winner against Spain in the first match and his assist for Lincoln against Niger threw much light on these qualities.

“We are very synchronised in our movements,” said Lincoln. “We talk a lot before the matches. Paulinho and Brenner are very special players and are helping me a lot to score. With them around, everything becomes easy. We wish to develop it further.”

In recent times, one of football's main discussion is whether the famed Brazilian elegance and flair are being forced to conform to the technical rigidities and principles alien to it. But as these three players have shown, these aspects can well co-exist. Paulinho does believe that “strikers are first defenders and the defenders are the first playmakers.” But the samba style is something he swears by.

“For everything, you need to work as a team,” he said. “We have been doing this for two years. Like with Lincoln, there is an excellent partnership. We know exactly where the other player is and in which direction he is going to move.”

So far, this combination brought Brazil all six of its goals — Lincoln 3, Paulinho 2 and Brenner 1 — and there are signs that there will be more.

Vinicius will still be talked about and Amadeu will continue to offer dead bats in return. But one thing is for sure — even if Brazil fail, it won't be because of Vinicius' absence.

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