FIFA U17 World Cup: Brazil vs Spain - Vitão and teammates will give 110% in Kochi
It's the composure that first strikes you as odd.
The easy, smiling, composure.
Your average teenager isn't supposed to be so calm, so level-headed. Cocksure and borderline arrogant, sure - think about that athletic stud in high school, picture all that preening - but calm and composed... Nah, not that.
But then again, your average preening-around-high-school senior doesn't captain Brazil.
Sure, it's the Brazilian Under-17 team, but A Seleção is A Seleção... and the fact that Vitor Eduardo da Silva Marcos, Vitão in that great Brazil tradition of cutting short every name they get their hands on, the captain and defensive rock of the Champions of South America (not empty praise, they won their 12th Copa America earlier this year) is the calmest, most self-assured youngster you will come across is something you don't fully grasp for a while.
Palmeiras' head coach, Eduardo Baptista, who called Vitão up for the senior squad during their Copa Libertadores campaign say's he's the perfect modern-defender-in-the-making - "Today’s defenders must be brave, fast and be able to pass. Vitão has all those qualities, and as he matures, he will improve." - but the one quality that allows you a whiff of the potential for greatness that lies within the young man is this comfortable confidence, this calm.
For those who lament about the shallowness and the callousness of youth, stop! please... Vitão is just sat there making utter fools of you all.
Having said that, surely the burden of captaining what is arguably the most revered football entity on the planet weighs on him just a little bit?
After all, Carlos Amadeu - the 65-year-old Professor of a manager with a likable demeanour that all our favourite teachers usually have - had said that "the moment a Brazilian was born, their first gift was a football", confirming the world's most well-known cliche that football is ingrained in the Brazilian psyche, the Brazilian culture like nothing else.
He had said that it was a pleasure and a privilege for everyone here, Vitão included, to beat out the intense competition that this kind of culture fosters and play in the hallowed canary yellow of the national team.
Some pressure, that, then for the captain of said national team?
Well... "I'm fine with it. Of course, pressure exists... but I captained this team to the Copa America crown, and I'm relaxed... I'm fine with it" Vitão said smiling that easy smile... not a hint of arrogance, but no false humility either. It's the calm assurance of a man... sorry... a boy who knows he deserves to be where he is.
Amadeu had mentioned that his primary aim was to prepare his wards for the fantastical, hyped-up, world of professional football... to help them understand what lies ahead of them in terms of the pressure engendered by the media, by the crowd.
He had committed to keeping up the tradition of attacking football that had made their football team Brazil's greatest ever export, stating that regardless of opposition, regardless of stage, the team's aim was always to win.
As concerned about keeping up Brazil's near-mythical status of entertainers-extraordinaire, of being the lodestar of Joga Bonito (the Beautiful Game) as Amadeu is, he is also a pragmatic coach and understands that old footballing adage - attacking units wins you games, defenses win you tournaments.
And his team have a mean, mean defense. They conceded just 3 goals in the 9 Copa America games they played and the onus is again very much on the defense to keep out Spain and their ilk in this World Cup - but once again, that's a pressure that weighs lightly on the massive shoulders of the young Captain.
"It's all about how much hard work we put in during the match, how we adapt inside [on the pitch]. Our offense starts with our defenders, and our defense starts with our attackers. So, our defense was so good because the attackers played so very well" - an unusually perceptive response from Vitão that garnered a soft laugh and a firm under-the-table handshake of congratulations from the coach himself that spoke volumes about the belief and confidence that this captain-coach team have amongst themselves.
Vitão's best, though was reserved for the very end.
You see, try as the Coach did to bat away the question that loomed large, the absence of Vinicius Junior - the star of that 12th Copa America triumph, their leading scoring and the world's most expensive high-schooler, who had not been allowed to travel to the World Cup by his club Flamengo - with the stereotypical "teamwork is greater than the individual", that "every member of the team was as valuable as the other" and that "considering this was the same team that played in the Copa America, they were a united outfit that didn't have to worry overly about one part going missing" - it just wouldn't dissipate... the shadow of Vinicius Junior threatened to overrun the team - that's what happens when you score 7 goals in one of the world's premier youth tournaments, when Real Madrid shells out £38 million for the services of a 16-year-old.
He might now be out injured (after a particularly nasty challenge by Ponte Preta's Naldo in the Brasileirão Série A), but that was before Flamengo's decision to not send him across to India... and as good as the collective is, someone like that is bound to be missed, but it was Vitão who closed the door on that chapter with that eerie firm politeness that you usually see in only the most experienced of campaigners - "We have many talented players... if everybody gives their 110%, then we can get not one but two more [like] Vinicius. We send him good vibes, and our best wishes, to help him recover from his injury at the earliest."
Carlos Amadeu wanted to prepare his lads for what lays ahead of them, to handle the pressure of being a professional footballer?
Well, he's doing a mighty fine job of that if Vitão is anything to go by.
Amadeu's lads are ready, Vitão is ready.... Spain, you lot better watch out!