It’s been nine years since Brazil last lifted the Copa America and based on the fact Brazil chose to include their Captain and talisman Neymar in their Olympic squad, instead of the Copa squad, we can clearly see that in their list of priorities the Olympics comes first.
Neymar’s absence is a major blow to their chances but in 19 year old Gabriel Barbosa, a.k.a Gabigol of Santos, Brazil will feel they have another star who is ready to announce himself on the world stage. Gabigol, like Neymar, graduated from the Santos youth academy and is frequently compared to the Barcelona star. In fact, on the occasion of Neymar’s last game for Santos it was Gabigol who came off the bench to replace Neymar. The act was seen as a passing of the torch. Neymar had been the talisman of Santos and it was time for Gabigol to step in and fill his shoes. It’s a responsibility that he has revelled in.
The Santos youngster will now likely be tasked with filling Neymar’s boots in the senior team. Like Neymar, he managed to score on his debut for the senior team after coming on for the veteran Jonas and that action will only further the Brazilian fans belief that he is the real deal and that he should be the one Dunga puts his trust in.
Gabigol is a fairly complete player already, despite his age, and he may well be the answer to Brazil’s troublesome No. 9 position. He has played a lot of his football attacking from the right and this allows him to utilize his driving runs to cut inside onto his impressive left foot. He has also shown signs of developing into a top class centre-forward. His composure on the ball and in front of goal makes him a dangerous presence and he’s also shown the capability to bring others into the game. His work rate, determination and flair makes him a handful to contain. He has explosive pace and when that is combined with his agility and low centre of gravity, he is able to go on driving runs that bamboozle defenses.
As with all players he does have one or two things that need to be ironed out. Physically, he is not at his peak and that will sometimes result in his suffering whenever he clashes with a hard man type player. This also hinders his aerial impact. He has a good spring on him and he has displayed very good heading technique in regards to attempts, but in situations where he isn’t found unmarked and he has to challenge a defender to head at goal, he comes up short. These drawbacks will not be of much concern though as one would expect them to dissipate as he progresses in his career.
At the turn of the year, most would not have been backing Gabigol to be amongst the goals for Brazil in the Olympics. While hoping he would maybe make the squad for the Copa and get a cameo here or there, we now find ourselves in the position where not only will he be key to Brazil claiming their first Olympic football gold but he has the small matter of performing at the Copa America Centenario to contend with first. All eyes will be firmly focused on Gabigol this summer. No pressure kid.