World Cup host nation Brazil has never wanted for a dynamic midfielder, but if there is one player who has staked a claim for a starting spot at this year’s tournament, it is Chelsea’s Oscar. Fresh from scoring a brace in the 6-0 annihilation of Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday, Oscar is a golden talent Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari knows he can turn to come the main event.
Although Oscar may not have the natural vision of Zico or the flair of Ronaldinho, the 22-year-old is showing maturity beyond his years by becoming an integral part of José Mourinho’s title favorites. More European than South American in his style of play, Oscar likes to drift wide and then cut inside, drawing defenders towards him and freeing up strikers. He is also not afraid to tackle, which is a rare quality in attacking players. It is the reason why Mourinho kept him and dispensed with the services of the club’s player of the year, Juan Mata. Oscar brings a work ethic that complements the flair of Belgian, Eden Hazard and is the link between Chelsea’s midfield and attack. Their movement and understanding has been a driving force in the Stamford Bridge side’s charge towards the Premier League title without a goalscoring striker.
When it comes to the Brazil national team, Oscar also provides a new dimension to a midfield where there is a lot of competition. Barcelona’s Neymar injects flair and creativity, Premier League duo Fernandinho and Paulinho are ball-winners, while Oscar is the archetypal playmaker. To many, he is the natural successor to Kaká, whose rapid decline has seen him left out of successive Brazil squads. The fact Oscar is creative and yet still manages to get into teams where Hazard and Neymar are the focal points, says a lot about his promise and performances to date. It is rare for a team to play two creative attackers, especially one managed by Mourinho, regardless of their other attributes. Like gold, Oscar’s value and importance continues to grow.
With five World Cup titles under its belt, Brazil will be looking to win the golden trophy on home soil. The pressure will be great in a country where soccer has religion status. Although it may not have as many great individuals as in previous Brazil teams, Scolari does have a varied one and Oscar is a key part of it.
World Cup Preview is a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd