It was Endrick who would take on the number nine spot for Brazil in their vital match against Uruguay. Endrick, merely a teenager, with all the innocence in the world, would take the stage on one of the biggest stages in the world. Endrick, the precocious wunderkind desired by every club before he sealed a move to Real, the vulnerable yet iconic striker, the unproven yet successful attacker, would see his first major test on the global stage. It was Endrick, yes that 17-year-old Endrick, who would take on the vacant slot at striker.

His first start in the Brazil jersey comes at a pivotal crossroads for the Selecao. They faced one of the strongest teams in the entire tournament in Uruguay, a squad that swept aside the United States in the group stage along with wins over Panama and Bolivia. Brazil’s core, rapidly aging and facing questions about its legitimacy, desperately needed a win to fight off those doubts.

They would have to win without Vinicius, who would miss their knockout round through a yellow card suspension, and Neymar, who injured his knee in March. Manager Dorival Junior moved Rodrygo to the left wing and plugged Endrick in at striker. Endrick, who had played 34 minutes in Brazil’s first three Copa matches, would finally earn his long-awaited start.

Uruguay takes control early against Brazil

Uruguay’s talisman, Ronald Araujo, was the first to do something of note in the game. After Federico Valverde put in a rough tackle on Endrick, grounding him, a small scuffle ensued. Araujo stepped in, shoving Endrick from the back. It meant more than a simple disagreement — Endrick met the gatekeeper to his status as an elite attacker, a peek into his upcoming season at LaLiga.

Although Endrick threw his arms, hopped back up, and stared Araujo down, it was Raphinha who stepped in, shoving Araujo back. The brief but intense fight broken up by the referee would set the tone for the game.

The first big blow wasn’t a goal on either side — it was the injury for Uruguay’s centerpiece Araujo. Araujo planted his right foot too hard attempting to block Guilherme Arana’s cross, and fell gripping his hamstring. He left the field limping and covering his face, while Atletico Madrid defender José Giménez replaced him. Araujo will likely miss the rest of the tournament.

Brazil’s match against Uruguay was a match defined by transition. Brazil held the overwhelming majority of the possession, but Uruguay still scampered off to create opportunities on fast breaks. Each side’s best chances didn’t come from tactical build-up — it came from the flowing, instinctual counter-attacks that allowed Uruguay to find the space.

With the score still level, Darwin Nunez nearly scored the opener after he shook past Eder Militao and connected with a pinpoint Nahitan Nández cross. But, the Liverpool striker mistimed his jump, with the ball meeting his shoulder and spiraling over the net.

Raphinha went down the other end immediately. Paqueta flicked on a deep Allison pass to a sprinting Raphinha, who deftly controlled the pass with a touch to burst past Matias Vina. Raphinha seemed set for a one-on-one after he outpaced the rest of the Uruguay defenders, but Sergio Rochet easily batted the shot away.

Nandez red card opens game up

One of the more pivotal moments of the match came in the 72nd minute. With Rodrygo running rampant past a disjointed Uruguay defense looking to play a ball to Endrick, Nandez made a dangerous, studs-up tackle. The left-back missed the ball entirely, instead slamming into Rodrygo and bending his ankle at a grotesque ankle. After a heated debate and a lengthy VAR check, the referee lifted the red card. Off went Nandez, and in came right-back Guillermo Varela, attacker Giorgian De Arrascaeta, and a Brazilian onslaught of attacks.

Uruguay dropped back into a 5-4-0, with Nunez joining his front four behind the ball. They defended aggressively, nipping at the Brazilian backline as it passed the ball around.

Brazil only got two cracks at goal during the 20ish minutes between Nandez’s dismissal and the shootout — a Rodrygo free-kick that hit the wall and an Endrick outside-the-box effort that rolled comfortably into Rochet’s gloves.

And there, we saw how Endrick’s youth was shown. Although Endrick is still the larger-than-life, sweetheart that everyone in Brazil — even his rivals — will love, he’s still young. This is still a teenager adjusting to the tempo of high-level soccer, still dealing with the physicality of top-level defenders. We saw glimpses of frustration as the baby-faced Endrick gripped his hair, scrunched his face, and let a vexed scream escape. He looked confused, unable to deal with Uruguay’s physicality, and angered by Brazil’s inability to get him the ball or take any risks.

And there, we saw the real issue with this Brazilian side. With Vinicius and Neymar out, the team doesn’t have a true creator. The team doesn’t have a Kaká or a Zico in the midfield. Outside of Paquetá, who has created most of Brazil’s chances at the Copa, Brazil doesn’t have anyone. Some of it is because of Vini’s absence, and some because of manager Dorival Junior’s laissez-faire tactics.

However, Brazil is in a state of chaos. The apocalyptic disorder ex-gaffer Tite left behind is nowhere close to being resolved.

Brazil loses in penalties

After Valverde tucked his shot to the bottom left, Rochet batted away Eder’s penalty with an impressive save. Rodrigo Bentacur, Andreas Pereira, and Georgian De Arrascaeta all made their penalties, with Douglas Luiz set to head to the line.

Luiz stutter-stepped his way to the spot, and his effort is inches away from rolling into the net. But, the post cruelly denies his penalty, leaving Brazil on the brink of the penalty. Despite an amazing Alisson save and Gabriel Martinelli’s score, Manuel Ugarte’s well-hit penalty sent Alisson completely the wrong way.

Brazil, in a rather anticlimactic way, was out. Endrick and Brazil will be left to pick up the pieces of a shattered Copa America tournament as they look to surge back to a World Cup qualifying berth.

“We want to put Brazil on top,” Endrick sighed after the loss. “We will continue to work and prepare for the World Cup”. The loss comes as a coming-of-age moment for the incoming Real star.

Uruguay will advance to the semifinals for an entertaining match against Colombia, who haven’t lost in 26 matches. They’ll be without Araujo and Nandez in their pivotal clash.