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Endrick has the qualities that made Romario great, says Branco, champion with Brazil in the 1994 World Cup

Few people know the inexhaustible mine of Brazilian talent like Cláudio Ibraim Vaz Leal, better known as Branco (Bagé, 1964). A long-distance left-back with an impressive punch, he is still remembered for his decisive goal from a direct free kick against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup in the USA that led Brazil to the semifinals and later to conquer his fourth star, scoring a penalty in the final. against Italy. Since 2018 he has been the coordinator of the CBF youth teams, managing the country’s talents, such as Endrick. He caters to ACE from Colombia, where the South American U-20 tournament is already underway.

It’s hard. It is a feeling of eternal loss because he has been the best in the world in every way. The feeling is the same as when another symbol like Senna left. They have been the two greatest, we will always miss them.

What in his mission as coordinator of the youth categories of the CBF?

We have tried to implement our working method as we did 16 years ago, in my previous stage in the Federation. We have had many successes in different categories, but it’s not just about winning, it’s about training. We must also highly value the improvement of all the clubs at the infrastructure level. Everything is born there. They do the main day-to-day work. We have transformed some things because we have very competent professionals and the necessary means to progress. At this stage we have won Olympic gold, a U-17 World Cup, very prestigious international tournaments such as Toulon or Montaigu, a South American U-15… A good job is being done and we are on the right track.

Are you trying to recover the creative and daring style of Brazilian soccer players? Was a bit lost?

With the new generations we are promoting skill, quality, dribbling, one-on-one… In other words, the essence of Brazilian football that perhaps had been lost a bit. Our players must not lose that. I thought the same in the four-year period from 2003 to 2007 when I was Brazil’s Youth Coordinator and we began the cycle by winning the U-20 World Cup final against Iniesta’s Spain with a goal from Fernandinho. When the CBF called me again in 2018, things were not going well. We had not qualified for the U-20 World Cup and no important youngsters were coming out for the Seleçao.

And what did you modify to get back on track?

I surrounded myself with a good team and we changed our mentality. We began to call young people who had a certain profile and we drew up the same model that would serve from the lowest categories to the absolute one. We talked about it in a meeting with Tite, Juninho Paulista and Parreira. It was a summit to start working with a common strategy.

Are the new references for young people like Vinicius, Rodrygo or Martinelli?

Undoubtedly. The generations from 2000 to 2005 are very good. Brazil has always proposed the game and has worried about the ball more than the rivals. Technique is our hallmark but tactical discipline is also necessary. We talk a lot with the clubs and the coordination is perfect. We program everything and leave nothing to chance. An example of this is Endrick, who at the age of 16 is the owner of a historic club like Palmeiras. We are training soccer players for the absolute. Eight arrived in Qatar, in 2026 there will be more.

Do you think that current football is becoming too robotic?

Yes I believe it. Every time everything is more studied and analyzed. Today strength and speed predominate. For this reason we must strengthen our technical quality, because that can make a difference.

Would you like Brazil to resemble the 1970 World Cup team as much as possible?

I wish. We have to be ourselves. Brazil must always be Brazil. We cannot lose our essence. I have a phrase for the kids that arrive: “Have fun responsibly.” The Brazilian has always had fun and played with joy. You also have to have tactical, physical and mental responsibility but giving them freedom to be creative. That is why we have won five World Cups. The Brazilian cannot lose that quality.

What is the objective of Brazil in this South American U-20?

The first and foremost is to qualify for the World Cup in Indonesia, because we have missed out on the last two World Cups in this category and Brazil cannot allow that. Despite some absences, we have a great team to aspire to do something important, including two very young talents, from 2006: Luis Guilherme, from Palmeiras, and Pedrinho, from Corinthians.

Endrick is not there, at the request of Palmeiras. What future do you see for the striker?

Magnificent. He is an exceptional player and a pure goalscorer, with a lot of class.

Can he succeed at Madrid when he arrives, despite the fact that he will be only 18 years old?

Of course. He could be a world figure like Vinicius or Rodrygo are now or even like Neymar when he left Santos or Ronaldo when he left Cruzeiro.

What player does it remind you of?

To Romario. His biotype is very similar. He is strong, short, fast, is always well placed and has a great eye for goals, qualities that made Romario great. He is a guy very similar to O Baixinho. Endrick has many virtues to be able to succeed in football.

Can pressure affect you, being so young?

I don `t believe. He is a humble boy, with a well furnished head.

Others who aim for stars are Luis Guilherme, França, Andrey Santos, Vítor Roque, Marcos Leonardo… How many do you see in the 2026 World Cup?

Everyone has options. They are fantastic player projects. They are on their way to achieving it, but you have to work. It really depends on them. They have a lot of quality and are one step away, but you have to give it and earn that leading role in a World Cup.

Who is the young player who has most impressed you with his talent?

Surely Messi in the U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands, in 2005. In the semifinal Brazil lost to Argentina. I remember that Zabaleta and Messi scored. When I saw him play I was impressed and I thought he would be one of the greatest. I was not wrong. That World Cup was won by Argentina.

Brazil has been, for many years, the country with the most soccer players playing outside their country, currently more than 1,200. What is the key to this success? What makes the Brazilian model so attractive?

Our clubs are sellers and Europeans are buyers. There is plenty of talent here and we export it because the clubs need money. In Brazil we give many opportunities to young people who stand out. If at the age of 15 or 16 you are very good, you can reach the first team. Age does not matter.

As a talent builder, what is your dream in the immediate future?

First play a great role in the South American U-20 and as a rule continue training great players for the future. In my two stages I have achieved two U-17 World Cups, one U-20 and one Olympic Gold. I hope to continue to be successful and have a very strong national team as a result of the continuous work with the boys from the base. With all due respect to the 2022 team, I think the 2026 World Cup will be more powerful. (D)

Source: Eluniverso


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