With half-an-hour gone in Portugal’s opening match of the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, Joao Mario spotted Bruma’s sneaky, well-timed run on the edge of the Nigeria box, sent him a perfectly weighted pass and watched as his teammate glided through the area before delivering a low, hard finish with his right foot to open the scoring.
The goal, and the carbon copy of it that proved the match-winner of last Friday’s 3-2 contest in the 69th minute, was Bruma in a nutshell: quick, smart, tricky and, as seen in his celebrations, flamboyant. And if the world needed another glimpse of the Sporting Lisbon product, it was given one on the stroke of the hour-mark in Portugal’s second Group B match against South Korea—a 2-2 draw.
Born Armindo tue Na Banga in Guinea-Bissau, 18-year-old Bruma is just the latest wide attacker to have come through the system at Sporting. Cristiano Ronaldo is his most famous predecessor, and Nani played two seasons in the first team as well before following Ronaldo to Manchester United in 2007.
Some Portugal fans will tell you Bruma might just be the most physically talented of the three, but with only 13 senior appearances and a single goal under his belt he is still very much an unfinished item, a gem that needs a few years’ buffing before shining to its full potential.
The U-20 World Cup will almost certainly be part of the polishing process, and to that end Bruma looks to be following in the footsteps of another high-profile Sporting alumnus: Luis Figo.
Twenty-two years ago Figo was part of Carlos Queiroz’s U-20 Portugal side that went into the competition as defending champions. Peixe, Joao Pinto and Rui Costa were also in the team, and after beating Brazil on penalties to win the trophy, they would become known as the country’s “Golden Generation.”
The tournament would end up being one of the most important stepping stones in the then-18-year-old Figo’s fledgling career, and the following season he would play 43 matches in all competitions for Sporting, having turned out for the first team only six times prior.
If Bruma is able to similarly exploit the experience of an U-20 World Cup, he too could be headed for big things.
Surprisingly powerful for his 5'8" frame, he prefers to operate on the left flank, but can operate on the right side as well. He scored after making runs from both wings against Nigeria, and given that he is two-footed, he can either swerve outside a defender or cut inside for a shot on goal.
A good U-20 World Cup and breakthrough season at Sporting could also serve to propel him into Paulo Bento’s plans ahead of next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil. Nani’s decline has opened up an attacking opportunity in the senior Selecao, and before you know it Bruma could be working opposite Ronaldo on world football’s biggest stage.