When one hears the name of Brazil anywhere around the world, two things spring to mind – football and the Samba. And when the two are combined, the way they have been by the young and charismatic Brazilian football side at the Olympics, it is nothing short of spectacular.
Having scored 15 goals in 5 games (3 games every single game), this side looks odds on favorites to win the gold medal, something that has eluded this football-loving nation in it’s entire history. The Olympics have become something of a holy grail for Brazil, a trophy (or medal) that escaped even the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Romario, Ronaldo to name a few.
But the current side is widely tipped to win the gold medal on Saturday and then all roads turn to World Cup 2014 being held in Brazil itself. Recent campaigns have been bordering on the disappointing, a promise yet unfulfilled. Performances have been erratic, ranging from a narrow win over England to a pulsating Messi-inflicted 4-3 defeat to Argentina. But the general consensus has always been that this team will reach maturity come 2014 when the world descends on the Samba nation.
Of the current crop, Neymar is the most celebrated star, a player who has already drawn comparisons with the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the tender age of 20. Skillful, pacey and possessing sublime technique and vision, Neymar is rightly considered Brazil’s sparkling light and the man to lead them to glory in 2014. Pele has labelled him “an excellent player who can surpass me in terms of skill”. High praise indeed.
Neymar has always been under the spotlight since he broke through the ranks at Santos and this has perhaps helped take the pressure off his team-mates. One, in particular, has slipped under the radar so far.
The world was introduced to Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior when Chelsea announced they were planning to sign him from São Paulo. He was an unknown quantity then, a mystery player who people, not normally versed in the Brasileirão, had to take to Youtube to ‘scout’. What was it about him that Chelsea were willing to fork out £20 million for? Given the woeful history of Brazilians in the Premier League, what did Oscar have that the Brazilians before him didn’t? How could he succeed where others before him had failed? So many questions and expectations from one so young.
The Olympics rolled into town and the doubters, critics and supporters alike got a glimpse of the prodigious talent, and the verdict was unanimous. Chelsea had on their hands one of the brightest young players of this generation, £20 million suddenly looked like a bargain signing (compare that to the £30 million Manchester United are looking to spend on Lucas Moura and Oscar seems worth a whole lot more).
A stat attack before we go any further – all 9 goals Brazil scored in the Group Stage of the Olympic games were either scored or assisted by Neymar or Oscar. Oscar also holds the record of being the first player to score a hat-trick in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final (2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup final win against Portugal).
Before Oscar burst onto the international scene, Brazil had another young playmaker who was supposed to smash records and be the poster boy of football (after Neymar of course). His name was Ganso, a diminutive midfielder who relies on his magnificent vision to find gaps where none seemingly existed. But a terrible knee injury followed by inconsistent form and attitude problems led to his demise and Oscar’s rise among the Seleção’s ranks. Ganso is still young, has time on his side, but it will take something special to usurp Oscar from his throne.
Immaculate technique, a vision that leaves many experienced players nodding their heads in admiration, and a powerful right foot are just a few weapons in Oscar’s armoury. But the thing that makes Oscar stand out from his peers is his maturity on the pitch and his attitude towards the game. Time seems to slow down when he has the ball at his feet, he possesses that rare talent of making football look like poetry in motion. He has the awareness of people around him before he receives the ball, a trait seen in the likes of Paul Scholes, Xavi and Sergio Busquets.
He does have a slight physical frame which will have to be worked upon at Chelsea given the physical nature of the Premier League. He is seen a natural successor to Frank Lampard and while he may spend more time on the bench than the pitch in the early months, it won’t be long before he starts pushing for a regular berth week in week out.
A star has been born and is ready to set the Premier League alight this season. No matter which club you may support, you can always appreciate fine talent and there they don’t come much better than Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior. Welcome to the Premier League.