Cologne - In the 71st minute of Brazil’s friendly against Chile at the Emirates Stadium in London on Sunday, was on the halfway line when he spotted a gap in the opposition defence as the ball was played out to Brazilian right-back Danilo. Darting into the space as he called for the pass, the 23-year-old controlled the ball and rounded the goalkeeper in one touch, before tapping into an empty net to score the only goal of the game.
Dunga: ‘I’ve been analysing Firmino for a long time’
It is a sight that TSG 1899 Hoffenheim fans will be more than familiar with, having been treated to the attacker’s talents since January 2011 when he joined from Figueirense FC. And now, it seems, Firmino is set to continue showcasing his skills to a wider audience as part of a new-look Brazil line-up.
As impressive as Firmino’s displays have been in his four years in the Bundesliga, he owes much of his chance in the national set-up to Brazil’s disappointing showing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup on home soil - not least the humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany. Dunga was named as the new Selecao head coach in the aftermath of the tournament, tasked with restoring Brazil’s tarnished reputation on the international scene.
It is here that Firmino enters the picture. He earned the first of his four caps to date in November last year, with Dunga looking to build a squad capable of challenging for glory at the 2015 Copa America - South America’s continental championship - in June later this year. “I’ve been analysing Firmino for a very long time,” the coach said after Brazil’s latest victory. “He’s been slowly introduced into the team and that has helped. He has a big desire to score goals."
Thiago Silva: ‘He’s a star who’ll shine brightly’
There is no denying that. Firmino scored the winner away to Austria in a 2-1 victory on 18 November 2014 with a stunning 25-yard strike into the top corner. He then set up Oscar with a delicate through-ball to level the score at 1-1 away to France last week en route to a 3-1 triumph, before grabbing the headlines once more on Sunday to hand the side an eighth consecutive victory.
Four games, two goals and one assist - certainly not a bad start to a career in the world’s most decorated national team. “He’s a quiet guy in person but he’s loud out on the pitch,” said Brazil captain Thiago Silva. “Big players come to the fore in difficult situations like these and this is the second time he’s done it [scored a winning goal]. It just shows you that he’s a star who’ll shine brightly.”
'I need to find my place in the team'
Nevertheless, Firmino is determined to keep his feet on the ground despite his burgeoning reputation. “I hope that after making a good impression in a Brazil shirt here, I can come back more often,” he told Globo TV. “The team deserves credit for their attitude. Everyone deserves recognition for their commitment. Wherever I play, either in midfield or in attack, I’ll always give my best.”
It is that mindset that has put the Maceio native well on course to becoming a mainstay alongside the likes of Silva, Neymar and Co. in the team, although he remains aware he must continue to perform at club level first. “I’m a young player and I need to find my place in the [Brazil] side,” he told FIFA.com. “I hope I get the chance to do so. I have to keep playing well for Hoffenheim and then my chances [of being called up again] won’t be bad. It all starts with Hoffenheim, and builds from there.”