x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Self-critical Ganso needs to start orchestrating Brazil attack

The young playmaker acknowledges he has to start playing better at the Copa America to keep Brazil on track for a third successive title.

Paulo Henrique Ganso, right, has not been happy with his performances so far.
Paulo Henrique Ganso, right, has not been happy with his performances so far.

Paulo Henrique Ganso, the young playmaker, acknowledges he has to start playing better at the Copa America to keep Brazil on track for a third successive title.

Ganso and the rest of Brazil's players have been struggling, and the team enter their final group match needing a victory against Ecuador tonight to guarantee their progress in the South American competition.

The 21-year-old Ganso recovered from a muscle injury just in time for the event. Menezes did not pick the player in his initial squad, waiting until he had healed before including him, saying "there is no one like him" to play in the Brazilian midfield.

But he is not performing as well as expected despite setting up Brazil's two goals against Paraguay on Saturday, including the late equaliser by Fred.

The Copa America is Ganso's first big test with the national team. Along with Neymar, Lucas and several other promising youngsters, he is being prepared to lead host Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.

Much is expected of Ganso after he — along with Neymar — helped Santos win the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, for the first time since Pele's days in 1963.

Comparisons with Real Madrid's Kaka, the 2007 World Player of the Year, have been made while Ganso's languid playing style has been likened to that of Juan Roman Riquelme, the Argentine playmaker.

Fans and local media remain behind Ganso despite his lacklustre displays, but the midfielder is not as easy on himself.

"I'm the first to criticise the way I'm playing when things are not working," he said on Monday. "I try to look at what's wrong, at what needs to improve, and then I try to fix it so I can start playing well again."

Ganso failed to shine against Venezuela and played only marginally better against Paraguay, but his two passes that led to goals were crucial in keeping Brazil in position to reach the quarter-finals.

A loss would have left Brazil in serious danger of being eliminated. The five-time world champions would have needed other results to go their way to stay alive in a 12-team competition in which only four teams do not advance to the second round.

A draw tonight against Ecuador would give Brazil three points and would probably be enough to see them through as one of the two best third-placed teams. But victory is what they want.

Ganso said he knows where he needs to improve to help Brazil keep progressing. "I've looked at the match numbers and I'm making too many passing mistakes," he said. "I'm not being able to make that last pass to put the strikers in a position to score."

"It's good to know Mano has confidence in me," Ganso said. "But I need to perform when I get on the field because if I don't he will have to pull me out."

Ecuador will be missing Antonio Valencia, their key midfielder, tonight. The Manchester United winger missed the loss to Venezuela with an ankle injury suffered in the opening group match draw against Paraguay and now medical staff feel he should not be risked.