Brazil U20: Three emerging gems in Brazilian football that could be heading to Europe in the future – scout report
Brazil U20’s recent fixtures served to showcase some of the hottest talents in Brazilian football. Most notably, Brazil U20’s 7-0 win over Uruguay U20 saw a dominant and organised collective performance with individual brilliance all around. While some of these players are first-team regulars at their clubs, others are still in the youth academy. Besides Man City’s Kayky and Real Madrid’s Vinicius Tobias, who already play in Europe, most of these players are just now breaking into the global spotlight.
This analysis aims to identify and examine three players who not only stood out for their performances but, in my opinion, have essential attributes to succeed at a higher level. These attributes go beyond raw talent and facilitate their tactical adaptation and engagement at a more competitive level. Many Brazilian prospects, despite their outstanding technical ability, struggle to perform in a more tactically competitive scenario. Contrastingly, these players demonstrate enough tactical awareness and consistency to project the opposite.
In this analysis, three individual scout report sections will examine each player’s strengths and characteristics. Through both statistical and tactical analysis, these scout reports aim to provide a complete overview of the players’ styles, even within their team’s tactics. Finally, we will also highlight a few other promising players worth mentioning.
Andrey Santos is the heart of this Brazil U20 side. As the captain, Andrey commands the midfield, and consequently the team, throughout all four phases. Additionally, despite having just turned 18, the deep-lying midfielder has become a regular squad player in Vasco’s first team. His consistent performances in such important roles have already attracted the attention of some of the world’s biggest clubs. According to reports, the Carioca is wanted by PSG’s Director of Football Luís Campos.
The 18-year-old is a complete defensive midfielder with the ability to contribute to all four phases. Vasco are hardly a possession-based side, with 50.97% average possession and 333.85 passes per 90. Consequently, we are able to see, through his statistics, a clear and balanced performance throughout the four phases.
Defensively, Andrey performs very well with 10.49 successful defensive actions per 90 and winning 65.08% of his defensive duels in the Série B 2022. Against Uruguay, specifically, Andrey won all of his five defensive duels. He is also quite intelligent at reading the game with 6.77 possession-adjusted interceptions per 90.
In addition to being quite successful in his actions, he is quite literally everywhere on the pitch. Against Uruguay, as seen below, the midfielder performed 53 actions all over the pitch.
In possession, Andrey plays a key role in the build-up and progression. While on paper Brazil played with a double pivot, Andrey would drop much deeper and act as a single pivot dictating the tempo and controlling the build-up. Against Uruguay, the 18-year-old completed 34 of his 36 attempted passes.
His pass map below illustrates his passing throughout the pitch. We are able to see he does a good job of relieving the pressure by playing away from it. With his passing, he is able to break lines and switch the focus of attack with frequency.
His positioning is one of the main factors behind his success in possession. With two great ball-playing centre-backs in Kaiky and Robert Renan, Andrey was able to constantly find gaps within the defensive organisation to receive the ball before progressing it further. In the example below, we are able to see him check for the ball in between defensive lines. As he checks in, he is already scanning the scenario ahead of him as seen below. After receiving it, he immediately turns and attacks the space before playing it wide.
In addition to receiving passes within the opposition’s defensive block, he is also capable of breaking lines with his passing and finding his teammates in similar positions. In the Série B, Andrey averages 6.56 progressive passes per 90. Additionally, his willingness and capability to be direct and break lines can be seen in the direction of his passes. While 11.21 of his passes are lateral, 13.83 of them are forward. In the instance below, we are able to see an example of this.
In more advanced zones, he is able to maintain the same creativity and effectiveness. In this match, he completed six of his seven attempted passes to the final third. Below, we are able to see an example of this as he finds Matheus Martins near the last defensive line.
In this other example, he finds Vitor Roque on the wing with a perfectly weighted long pass. His accuracy and consistency with these longer passes make him a much more well-rounded threat passing-wise. He also offers a threat by occasionally carrying the ball and attacking space. The Carioca has 1.67 progressive runs per 90 and 3.58 dribbles per 90 in the Série B.
While Andrey Santos performs very well defensively, in possession is where he shines the most. The 18-year-old has a number of technical weapons in his arsenal, but it is his tactical awareness and intelligence that make these abilities so dangerous. He is able to play a crucial role in possession due to his vision and passing range. He also offers a threat dribbling-wise which is enhanced by his good positioning. Still very young at 18 years old, it is no wonder clubs like PSG are after the Vascaíno.
Next up is 18-year-old Robert Renan from Corinthians U20. Despite only featuring once in the first team, it should not be long before Vitor Pereira gives Robert more opportunities, especially given how well he has been playing for Brazil U20. While he is perhaps the least known player on this list, his ability and potential should not be understated. Robert Renan is a left-footed centre-back with incredible ball-playing abilities. In addition to being very solid defensively, the 18-year-old offers extreme quality and composure in the build-up.
Robert Renan is not incredibly tall, and consequently, does not offer much aerial presence. For Corinthians U20 and Brazil U20, Robert only averages 1.94 aerial duels per 90 winning 44.4% of them. On the other hand, the Corintiano wins 65.8% of his 5.24 defensive duels per 90. He is very selective with his challenges while still being effective. He does not commit many fouls at 0.72 per 90 and intercepts the ball quite frequently with 3.95 interceptions per 90. Overall, he recovers the ball, on average, 7.32 times per 90, with nearly one-quarter of them being in the opposition half. For teams that look to press high, Robert Renan is a great option as he is mobile and fast in addition to being very effective when stepping up to close players down.
In possession, Robert Renan is one of the best ball-playing centre-backs of his age. His pass map against Uruguay illustrates both the effectiveness and range of his passing. Completing 79 of his 84 attempted passes, Robert is great at retaining possession while still finding teammates in advanced positions with frequency.
One of the most notable characteristics of his passing is his composure. With his body, he is able to disguise his passes and find teammates through very tight spaces. In the instance below, he is being pressured by three Uruguay players in his own third. Disguising his intentions, he finds Andrey Santos through a very tight passing lane.
With a similar movement, he is able to do the same in the final third. In the example below, his body is turned to the wide player as he begins the passing motion. However, he finds Matheus Martins within the last defensive line through an incredibly tight lane. The effectiveness of his passing is seen in various scenarios and areas of the pitch.
Overall, Robert Renan is quite involved in possession. Especially in the opposition half, Robert will advance into space and find players in the final third despite being a centre-back. For Brazil U20 and Corinthians U20, he averages an impressive 2.44 progressive runs and 1.58 dribbles per 90. Additionally, 23.61 of his 63.52 passes per 90 are forward, 7.82 are long, and 9.76 are to the final third. His passing breakdown highlights how involved he is in creating chances and entering the final third.
The 18-year-old is quite aware, tactically and technically, a trait not so common for his age. He is frequently able to make correct decisions, in and out of possession. As we have seen, defensively, he is very selective and effective with his actions, and one of the biggest factors in this is his tactical intelligence. Offensively, he is able to use this intelligence to get out of difficult situations and overcome challenges. In the instance below, for example, as he looks to progress into the midfield, his teammate is not in the best position to receive the ball.
In order to overcome this, he begins advancing into space. He does so with his left foot, threatening to play it wide. As a result, the defender angles his run in an attempt to cut the wide player off, and by doing so, leaves the midfielder open. With the outside of the foot, Robert Renan finds his teammate in a much better situation.
Robert Renan’s game is built around his tactical intelligence. Both in and out of possession, we are able to see this through statistical and tactical analysis. Defensively, his statistics indicate his selectiveness and effectiveness, as he does not engage often, but when he does, he does so successfully. In possession, we are able to see this intelligence through his passing, vision, and subtle decisions and movements. The Corintiano is a rare talent built for today’s football, and it should not be long before he begins attracting the attention of European clubs. In a low-risk high-reward scenario, clubs could take a chance on him and get him for much less before he begins performing for the first team.
The last player is one of the most well-known in this Brazil U20 side. After Kaio Jorge’s departure to Juventus last summer, Marcos Leonardo finally assumed the number nine role at Santos. The 19-year-old has been a promising prospect in Santos’ academy for a few years, and this year he has finally started to live up to his potential in the first team. In 2022, he has scored 0.58 goals per 90 from an outstanding 0.54 xG per 90. In the match against Uruguay U20, the centre-forward scored four goals after coming off the bench still in the first half. A rare breed, Marcos Leonardo is a traditional centre-forward who knows how to frequently find the back of the net.
As a true number nine, Marcos Leonardo operates mainly in the box and does not get involved much in possession. In 2022, he averages 9.02 passes per 90. Similarly, he only completed six of his eight attempted passes against Uruguay. This is more due to his positioning than to his actual passing ability. In the final third, and especially in the box, he is able to find his teammates in dangerous positions. Still in the first half, for instance, he takes a few players on before finding Matheus Nascimento in a great position.
Now in the second half, he is able to assist Kayky for Brazil’s fifth goal. After receiving it with his back to the goal, he immediately senses the space behind and performs a backheel to leave Kayky in front of the goal.
Marcos Leonardo’s tactical intelligence to find space within the box and manipulate the defence significantly complements his outstanding technical ability. His awareness is subtle yet significant to his overall performance. In the instance below, for example, he positions himself in between two defenders. Matheus Martins is able to find him, and, with his first touch, he sets up a shot with his left foot away from the defender. With a conscious first touch, he is able to get the ball away from the defender and immediately have a shot from a very good location.
In Brazil’s sixth goal, we are able to see Marcos Leonardo’s technical ability through his first touch yet again. After receiving a cross from the left side, he completely kills the ball with his first touch. With the ball stopped at his feet, he calmly places it in the bottom left corner. His composure on the ball combined with his technical ability and tactical awareness make him a complete threat in the final third.
Finally, Brazil’s fourth goal sees the Santista chip the goalkeeper to finish off a beautifully constructed chance. This wonderful finish not only shows his composure and flair but also his movement off the ball to dislocate himself and receive a through ball in such a tight space.
In summary, Marcos Leonardo is a complete forward who is able to constantly find space to receive the ball, assist his teammates, and most importantly, get shots off in optimal locations. Against Uruguay, the 19-year-old hit the target in five out of his six shots. While four of those were goals, it is the location of these shots which are impressive. All four goals are from around the penalty spot.
Already on the radar of some European clubs, it won’t be long before the young star makes the next move. Marcos Leonardo would best fit in teams that do not require a lot of involvement from the centre-forward in possession, but rather is able to remain and find spaces around the last defensive line. A true number nine, Marcos Leonardo is an intelligent forward who should have no trouble adapting to European football.
While these three players performed extremely well in their roles, other players also left a good impression worth mentioning. Matheus Nascimento is an 18-year-old forward slowly breaking into Botafogo’s first team. In the three recent Brazil U20 fixtures, Nascimento scored three goals and assisted another. In addition to being a very good centre-forward (0.6 goals per 90 in 2022), he is able to drop deeper and get involved in possession with frequency.
Vinicius Tobias is another player worth noting, with the 18-year-old recently being loaned out to Real Madrid Castilla from Shakhtar Donetsk. The right-back should be signed by Real Madrid once his loan is up and maybe looked at as a long-term replacement for Dani Carvajal. Vinicius has exceptional technical ability and plays with tremendous flair.
Another name worth looking out for in the near future is Athletico Paranaense’s Vitor Roque. The 17-year-old scored one and assisted another against Uruguay. Having recently signed from Cruzeiro, the winger has already scored one goal from a few substitute appearances for Athletico’s first team. His output is very good with 3.47 shots and 7.3 dribbles per 90 in this year’s Série A.
Finally, Man City’s Kayky, Santos’ Kaiky, and Fluminense’s Matheus Martins are other names worth watching out for.
This Brazil U20 side is filled with young stars and tremendous potential. After this year’s World Cup, the next Brazil manager should seriously consider integrating some of these players in the next World Cup cycle. In this scout report, we have individually analysed three players who have a really bright future ahead of them. In addition to their tremendous technical and physical ability, their tactical intelligence significantly elevates their potential. It should not be long before we begin seeing their names linked to big clubs.