CONCACAF: Spotlight on phenom Endrick as Brazil opens vs. Costa Rica

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Brazil begins its Copa America campaign on Monday without several familiar faces, but with plenty of anticipation surrounding the potential of the nation’s latest teen phenom Endrick, who has been given the country’s famous No. 9 jersey.

Neymar, Casemiro and Richarlison are among the big names missing for the Selecao, who still have two-time Champions League-winner Vinicius Junior and a host of other stars among their ranks.

Endrick will soon join Vinicius Junior at Real Madrid to start the 2024-25 season. Before that, the 17-year-old could become a major part of Brazil’s quest to win its 10th Copa America to join Argentina and Uruguay (both 15) among nations with double-digit trophies.

That said, manager Dorival Junior wants to calm the rush to anoint the traditional power’s next potential prodigy, despite similarities to the legendary Pele, who burst onto the scene at the same age in the 1958 World Cup.

“We need to be calm, patient, avoid making any comparisons between Endrick and other athletes,” the coach said after Brazil’s friendly win over Mexico earlier this month, through an interpreter. “We need to be very careful about this boy. So much is happening in his life in such little time. What matters is that he doesn’t lose his essence.”

Endrick featured as a substitute in both of Brazil’s prep matches, scoring the match-winner in a 30-plus minute shift in the 3-2 friendly victory over Mexico. He went on to play 25 minutes in a 1-1 draw against the United States.

While the Palmeiras product has the jersey number customary of a center forward, it’s clear Dorival Junior views him as a potential partner to Vinicius Junior rather than a backup.

Both entered off the bench in the second half against Mexico. Against the United States, Vinicius Junior played the full 90 and Endrick’s entrance marked a change of shape.

“Only God knows (when I will start),” Endrick said at a press conference this week, through an interpreter. “Everything is up to God and Professor Dorival Junior. He is a spectacular coach. He is doing what is best for the Brazilian team.”

Costa Rica is making its sixth Copa America appearance, the second-most among guest nations behind Mexico. Costa Rica is also familiar with Brazil at major tournaments, losing each of their three meetings in the World Cup group stage since 1990.

–Field Level Media

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