by Gautam Viswanathan Jul 3, 2013 11:09 IST
Fernando Torres was awarded the Confederations Cup Golden Boot on Sunday night. He’d scored five goals throughout the tournament, four of which were against Tahiti.
The reason he won it is because he’d accrued one assist more than the man who’d come in second. It is a situation similar to the 2012 European Championships where he was tied with two others who’d scored as many as he had.
On both occasions, truth be told, he did not deserve it. That award should have been given not to the Spaniard, but a man who is Brazilian through and through.
Fred also scored five goals for Brazil during the course of the tournament. He opened his account with a brace against Italy in the Selecao’s final group stage game before giving the hosts the lead against Uruguay in the semi-finals.
Should Brazil win the World Cup in 2014, Fred’s two goals against Spain at the Maracana will be the sounding of the trumpets that signals the return of the five-time World Cup winners to the competitive stage.
When the final whistle rang at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, the scene of Brazil’s 2-1 triumph over Uruguay, the stadium rang with chants of o campeao voltou — the champion is back.
And one of the reasons they are champions is because of Fred’s endeavours. While the Fluminense man may not have the silky skills of Neymar, the flair of Paulinho or the trickery of Oscar or Hulk’s barnstorming capabilities, what he does have is the ability to sniff out a goal and position himself in the right place at the right time to find the back of the net when others find it seemingly impossible to do so.
He is, in fact, a predator, one of a dying breed of footballers.
The fox in the box is a position that is rapidly dying out and of the great predators that once lined up on pitches all across the world, few are currently active and those who are are in the twilight of their careers. Filippo Inzaghi, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, David Trezeguet and Raul Gonzalez were the best in the business but they have hung up their boots or will soon do so.
Frederico Chaves Guedes is one of that breed and that such a workmanlike player who thrives on the skills of others so that he may employ his own is in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad shows just how important it is to have a player of his calibre in the team.
When the Brazilians are flying high, there are few - as Spain found out to their chagrin at the Maracana – who can stop them. But when the chips are down and the South American nation are in danger of being overwhelmed, they need someone who can conjure them a goal from out of nothing.
Giorgio Chiellini had scored for the Italians in their final group stage against the hosts to pull the score back to 3-2 and chances of mounting a comeback loomed on the horizon, only for Fred to dash them when he brought back assurance to Brazilian hearts when he scored his second of the game to give his country an unassailable lead of 4-2 in the 89th minute.
Against Uruguay in the semis, Brazil were hanging on to the contest for patches of the first half and were lucky to not go a goal down when Julio Cesar saved Diego Forlan’s penalty to keep the score at nil-nil. On that day, Neymar was uncharacteristically subdued and the Canarinha were finding it hard to overcome the stern Celeste rear guard.
They were, however, still playing without the swagger and confidence that had characterised Brazilian teams of the past and looked very nervy. It was once again Fred who made sure that his team were able to rediscover their confidence when he popped up completely unmarked in the right place at the right time to prod home Neymar’s parried effort past a helpless Fernando Muslera to ensure Brazil went into the break with their tails up.
Predators are often compared to snakes in the grass because they lie in wait, nearly invisible when it comes to having an imprint on proceedings for 89 minutes but the impact they do have in that one remaining minute justifies their selection because you give such a striker the ball and he is very likely to score.
It is a comparison that rings most true with the 6’1” striker. He won his first title with Olympique Lyonnais in France, the first of three consecutive Ligue 1 titles in 2005 for the Brazilian and was the second-highest scorer during the 2005-06 campaign.
The next season saw him miss two months of competitive football, but he still managed to top the scoring charts at Lyon as the club went on to win their sixth of seven consecutive league titles.
That trend continued when Fred returned to Brazil with Fluminense, the club he currently plays for. In July 2011, he broke the record for most number of goals scored in the Brasileirao when he scored his 44th goal of that season. In 2012, his brace in a 3-2 win against Palmeiras helped clinch the 2012 Brasileiro Championship for Fluminense, their first since 2010 and only their fourth overall.
Fred’s most valuable skill is his anticipation, and that is why he is one of the first names on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team sheet.
Indeed, it was the Brazilian coach who brought Fred back from the international wilderness. In another instance of setting the ball rolling, it was Fred who actually scored the first goal at the reconstructed Maracana stadium when he opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw against England, finally breaking the deadlock as he beat the excellent Joe Hart.
The best teams in the world are always that perfect medley of silk and steel working in perfect harmony. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is bound to see several stars such as Ganso, Ronaldinho and Kaka recalled to the Selecao fold alongside players such as Neymar, Paulinho, Bernard and Oscar.
But for all these creative players, there is an equally steely quality to Brazil because of the presence of captain Thiago Silva, Luis Gustavo, Hulk and Fred.
And come 2014, it will be Fred who Brazil look to when they find themselves in a tight spot and all else has failed.
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