RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian national soccer team head coach Tite included on Thursday Real Madrid teenage star Vinicius Junior among his list of call-ups for two friendlies prior to the 2019 Copa America.
It marks the first time the 18-year-old Vinicius, who got the nod due to a new injury suffered by captain Neymar Jr., has been chosen to represent Brazil at the highest level.
The other big surprises in the call-up list were midfielders Felipe Anderson (West Ham United) and Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan), who have gained favor with Tite, while Marcelo’s recent inconsistent play cost the Real Madrid left back a roster spot.
In the two friendlies before Brazil unveils its roster for the 2019 Copa America, the Seleção will square off against Panama in Porto, Portugal, on March 23 and against the Czech Republic in Prague on March 26.
In a press conference in Rio de Janeiro to announce his selections, Tite made it clear that his roster for the Copa America – which Brazil will host – has not been decided and that other players not called up for the friendlies may make the squad.
He noted that two of Brazil’s most-capped players, Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar Jr. and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho, are currently recovering from injuries.
Regarding Vinicius Junior’s first opportunity with Brazil’s top squad, the head coach said he is open to bringing rising young stars on board and that the forward earned a spot with his strong performances and maturity at a demanding club.
“Vinicius has played nearly 26 games at a club like Real Madrid,” Tite noted, adding that despite his short time in Spain he has made impressive strides.
He said the 18-year-old still needs to sharpen his technical skills but already is an exceptional player.
“He has two more gears than a normal player does. He can elude (defenders) and change direction with impressive force. When he’s attacking, the opposing defender starts running backwards. I think with time he’ll develop the technical part he lacks,” Tite said.
The Brazilian national team’s full call-up list is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City) and Weverton (Palmeiras).
Defenders: Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Danilo (Manchester City), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Miranda (Inter Milan), Thiago Silva (PSG), Eder Militão (Porto) and Marquinhos (PSG).
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Arthur (Barcelona), Fabinho (Liverpool), Allan (Napoli), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Felipe Anderson (West Ham United) and Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan).
Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Everton (Gremio), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) and Richarlison (Everton).