In the wake of their World Cup heartbreak in front of their own fans, there is great optimism in the Brazil national team of bouncing back. They have found a new sense of belief under former midfielder and World Cup winner Dunga who has gone about his business quietly, moulding the team in his own image.
The Selecao has won all their matches after last summer’s World Cup under new skipper Neymar and many now tip them as favourites to lift the Copa America title. However despite all the big names in the squad, it is Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino who seems to be delivering the goods.
Having started his career in his homeland with Figueirense, the 23-year-old made his first-team debut back in August 2009 before moving to Hoffenheim in December of 2010.
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The 5ft 9in attacking midfielder struggled to adapt to life in Germany at first and was even dropped from the first-team squad after showing up late for training back in November 2011.
However, since he has settled and come to terms with life at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Firmino has been firing on all cylinders and is now one of the best attacking talents in the German Bundesliga.
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He enjoyed his most prolific and successful season in Germany last year scoring 22 goals while bagging 15 assists in all competitions. Unfortunately his brilliant season wasn’t enough to book a place in the squad for the 2014 World Cup but he turned the heads of several European powerhouses including Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.
He started this season in the same vain but has since been struggling for top form for his club but has now placed himself into Dunga’s plans.
The 51-year-old issued a warning on Firmino’s first call-up into the squad, telling him that he has to take his chance or face being left in the cold from the national set-up.
However after two goals and an assist in his first four appearances for the Selecao, Firmino is now a key part of the Brazilian squad especially since Dunga is badly in need of goals from midfield due to the lack of a top striker.
With Dunga’s style being based on hard work and being solid in defence and midfield, the Hoffenheim man has benefited greatly. His willingness to track back, put his foot in a tackle and sacrifice himself for the team despite playing high-up the pitch is admirable.
He seems to have developed an understanding with Chelsea’s Oscar and Neymar which is looking good at present and for the future. The way they exchange passes in tight spaces, the movement and ability to create openings for each other in the final third must be pleasing to the boss and his coaching staff.
Since the retirement Ronaldo, Brazil has been searching for a top class striker but the likes of Adriano, Luiz Fabiano and Fred have all failed to deliver. Shakhtar Donetsk’s Luiz Adriano and Diego Tardelli of Shandong Luneng are the options but they have not lived up to expectations thus far.
With the lack of goals upfront, Neymar has to shoulder the burden of creating and also scoring but with Firmino in fine form and looking like the real deal the Barcelona man may be able to play his natural entertaining game.
Firmino is capable of playing anywhere in the final third and more than capable of hitting the back of the net from anywhere as he demonstrated with his two goals - one from outside the penalty area and the other rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home.
The core of this current set-up consists of a large number of players from the World Cup who would have gained invaluable experience. The important thing is that they seem to be buying into the new manager’s style and finding new grounds to express themselves.
The addition of the likes of Miranda, Filipe Luis, Danilo and Firmino has freshened things up a bit and it may have been what was required.
Still there are cause for concern in the striker's position but with Neymar and Firmino in fine form leading into Copa America, the Selecao could well be on their way to glory with their Hoffenheim superstar looking to steal the show.
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