Legendary Brazilian defender Lúcio has spent two seasons in India playing for Indian Super League (ISL) outfit FC Goa. Familiar with the state of football in India, the 38-year-old spoke on how the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India next year as a “great opportunity for a country like India to make a mark on the global footballing scene”. He added that the youth World Cup is “a huge tournament that has global exposure and will have a lot of viewership and interest”.
The Brazilian U-17 team won the inaugural BRICS tournament in India very comfortably, but Lúcio thinks it would be premature to call them the favourites. “Brazil have a good team and will always be a tough match for any opposition. But there will also undoubtedly be several other teams who are bound to have some very talented squads,” he said.
Elaborating on why Brazil consistently produces such brilliant players and the role of a strong football culture and strong heroes, Lúcio added, “Football is something that plays a colossal part in the Brazilian culture. Throughout the years, we have had significant numbers of players represent the team who have gone on to become global icons and they certainly do act as great motivation for the younger players. With such as rich footballing history and being such a big country, there are bound to be some great footballers come through“. At the same time, the former defender felt that this wasn’t a “magic formula” which others could imitate and get ahead. He explained, “It’s important to start developing footballers from a grassroots level and provide them with proper facilities to train. And coaching education is important as well. The kids need to have the right guidance in their steps to becoming a professional footballer.”
An important aspect of a defender’s game is strength and stature as commanding the air adds a great deal to the team’s strengths. Considering the players featuring in the coming tournament will be young boys, very few will be blessed with natural aerial ability. A defender with almost two decades of experience, Lúcio shared some valuable insight into what a young player can do better to compensate for the lack of physical prowess.
“Spatial awareness and tactical understanding are something that a defender needs to focus upon. Teamwork and positioning are other important facets of a defender’s game that should be concentrated on.“
Lúcio finished by expanding on the importance of playing a youth world championship in the long run. He said, “Experience is all important. To be able to play in a global tournament, against some of the best players in the world of the same age group is a unique adventure. The added pressure of having to perform while wearing the national jersey can add great value to a player’s experience and will stand them in good stead for the future. It will accustom them to the life of a professional footballer and give them great exposure.”
According to the former 2002 World Cup winner, India is on the verge of making some significant strides in improving itself on the footballing front, and the U-17 World Cup will certainly speed up the process. “With some of the world’s best young talent set to land up on these shores, its only bound to help the development of the sport within the country. India could be getting a first-hand look at some of the biggest footballing names in the years to come and it’s a great opportunity for India as hosts,” the 38-year-old added.