Forward Gabriel Martinelli insisted on Sunday that he deserves his surprising call-up to defend Brazil in the World Cup in Qatar, despite doubts in his country.
The 21-year-old Arsenal star recently made his debut with the five-time champions, one of the great favorites for the title, as a substitute in the 4-0 victory against Chile in March, on the penultimate date of the South American qualifier.
But he has since impressed coach Tite in two more brief appearances to enter the tournament squad ahead of the likes of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Flamengo’s ‘Gabigol’.
Although his call-up came as no surprise to Gunners fans, who marveled at his early season form (five goals and two assists in 14 Premier League games), it surprised many at home.
A video even began to circulate on social networks in which Brazilian star Neymar is seen reacting with surprise to the inclusion of Martinelli in the 26-player squad, revealed by Tite on November 7.
“I hope it was a good surprise. Neymar is an idol for me, he’s a guy that all the boys admire and he’s no different with me. It’s a pleasure to be here playing with him,” Martinelli said.
Although Neymar’s reaction can be interpreted in different ways, the surprise among some Brazilian fans and media was more forceful.
However, the attacker, the youngest player on the Brazil squad, says those views do not affect him.
“My season is going well, we (Arsenal) are at the top of the Premier League, we’re doing well, I’m confident,” he said at the end of the ‘Canarinha’ first training session in Doha.
“I don’t pay much attention to people who don’t know me, who don’t know my work,” he said. “I just have to focus on football, listen to my family and the people close to me. For me, that’s the most important thing.”
Brazil start favorites in their debut against Serbia on Thursday, although some fans and journalists are nervous about the Serbian attack, especially with strikers Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham, ENG) and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus, ITA).
Mitrovic has scored nine goals in twelve games for a mid-table team this season, while Vlahovic has six in ten Serie A games.
“They are great players, they have strength, a lot of quality. We study our opponents a lot and prepare ourselves for everything,” said Real Madrid defender Éder Militão.
“We have to be very careful with these players. In the World Cup, whoever makes the least mistakes ends up being victorious,” he added.
Martinelli has seen Mitrovic up close this season, as the Serbian striker scored against the Gunners before the north London side beat Fulham (2-1) in August.
“He’s a big guy, we know he has many qualities and that he’s good,” said the Brazilian attacker. “We have to take care of him, although not only him, they have a very good team.”