Since Ronaldo’s departure from the national team, Brazil has struggled to find a replacement. There have been many players that appeared to take on the striker role for the five-time World Cup winners but basically all of them have been unsuccessful. It’s now four years since the two-time Ballon d’Or recipient last played for the Selecao and they finally seem to have an answer for the forward position.
For Dunga’s second time managing Brazil, he’s taken a page out of Spain’s book to have Roberto Firmino play as a false 9. Firmino normally plays as a No. 10 in the hole for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, but Dunga realized that his well-rounded ability would be suited for him to play up top. Last season in the Bundesliga, Roberto was tied for fourth in the league with 16 goals and was second behind only Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus with 12 assists. Despite his wonderful form, the Maceio native was not called up to the World Cup roster and had to wait until November for his first cap. But he understood not to take the opportunity for granted when it was presented to him.
“Some players are regular but the newer guys do not have time to prove themselves. I feel I’ve done well but this is already part of the past. In football, we have to prove in every training session and every match that we are capable of being a starter,” said Firmino to the press.
He first appeared at the end of the match when the eight-time Copa America winners defeated Turkey 4-0. But he displayed his technical skills when he scored from a 25-yard shot near the end of the match in a 2-1 victory against defeat Austria. Following the game, Firmino expressed how honored he was to represent his homeland.
“To score my first Selecao goal is a unique emotion. It was a beautiful finish that helped my teammates to get the win. It was a dream goal and now I hope I can keep working to be called up again in the future. I already had two weeks without sleeping properly after being called up, so now I guess I’m heading for another month like that,” said Firmino to SporTV.
Last month he earned his first start when the seven-time FIFA Confederations Cup holders faced France in Paris. Dunga realized that to maximize the impact Neymar could have as their best player and goalscorer, he would need to be a capable partner who could orchestrate and set him up properly. Firmino did just that as he provided an assist, made many key passes into the box and ran through the channels to allow the midfielders to make runs. In their next friendly against Chile in London, Roberto scored the winner in a 1-0 victory and his teammate Thiago Silva called him a star.
So far in 30 appearances for his club this season, Firmino has registered nine goals and 10 assists. His immense quality is evident and he’s shown that he belongs with one of the top clubs in Europe, instead of a mid-table Bundesliga team. Due to his positional versatility, shooting and passing ability, workrate and defensive contributions many teams are already interested in purchasing him this summer. Hoffenheim reportedly wants €30 million. Teams better put their bids in soon because if he plays at an elite level in this year’s Copa America then the price will continue to increase.
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