Not long after the Women’s World Cup concluded on Sunday the 7th, another tournament held its final at the historic Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hosts of the Copa America this year, Brazil were up against Peru in a heated matchup held at one of the most famous stadiums in the world with millions watching and a mountain of pressure on their heads.
That Brazil, despite recent issues with player injuries and bad results in Copa America and World Cup tournaments since they last hosted the latter tournament in 2014, won their fifth Copa America title is no small feat. This was a talented team on home soil, no doubt, with a shrewd coach in Adenor Leonardo “Tite” Bacchi, but the seleção had not won the tournament in 12 years, before some of these players were even professionals.
In fact, several of the players on Tite’s squad grew up playing futsal at home in Brazil, whether at home or with clubs. This includes Philippe Coutinho, who played on and off as a youth at Vasco da Gama from 1999 to 2008, including for their futsal team as seen in this clip from 2005: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBfQoyZ0mtQ . As evident in the video, his skills were already impressive on the court and this movement style can be seen in his current play.
Coutinho started out as a kid playing futsal on a concrete pitch with his elder brothers in Rio before joining the Vasco da Gama academy at a young age. From there, his skills grew and grew until he made it to Europe thanks to a move to Inter Milan, before joining Liverpool and eventually Barcelona. And now, he has won the Copa America with the Brazilian national team.
Several other well-known Brazilian players in the lineup had similar beginnings, including Chelsea star midfielder Willian (https://www.msn.com/en-us/video/n/how-futsal-made-willian-a-premier-league-force-copa90-x-rexona/vp-AACcAAh) and Lucas Paqueta. PSG defender Marquinhos even started out as a goalkeeper on a futsal team (https://rainhasdodrible.wixsite.com/rainhasdodrible/post-unico/2018/05/28/Sele%C3%A7%C3%A3o-Brasileira-Marquinhos-o-zagueiro-que-%C3%A9-a-cara-da-Copa)! The list goes on.
The Guardian - Copa America Final https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/jul/07/copa-america-brazil-peru-final-gabriel-jesus
YouTube - Coutinho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBfQoyZ0mtQ
Photo credit: Sports Illustrated