If this is the time for dreams to be realised, it is the time for hearts to be broken, too. Players from Brazil, of all nations, will feel this more acutely than any right now. If the pressure to deliver in a home World Cup—for a nation still scarred by the blowout of 1950—is immense, the queue of players desperate to embrace that responsibility has been limitless.
For some, that quest to fly the standard on home soil has come to a fruitless end, following Luis Felipe Scolari's squad announcement last week. While Paris Saint-Germain celebrated a second successive league championship last Wednesday, their Brazilian winger Lucas Moura tried to absorb the news that his dream was over.
The shock and the pain for the 21-year-old was great enough that his coach Laurent Blanc abandoned plans to include him from the start against Rennes at the Parc des Princes that evening. "As much as I was happy for Maxwell (who was chosen by Scolari - ed.), I was upset for Lucas," said Blanc after the game, as per L'Equipe (in French). "That convinced me to include Max and to not put in Lucas from the start."
If the healing will take time, it has now well and truly begun. Lucas regained his place in the starting line-up for Saturday's sold-out clash at high-flying Lille. The winger showed exactly what he is made of, scoring one and creating another. His goal was just his fourth in Ligue 1 this season, but his assist was an 11th, in just his 17th start.
It was a fine performance, but one that is more common than some would like to admit. Lucas creates more goals per minute played than anybody else in the division. Only Monaco's James Rodriguez has laid on more this campaign, with 12.
The feeling with Lucas is always that there could, and should, be more. Moments like that in March against Marseille at the Parc, where he slalomed a cluster of defenders before being denied a wonder goal by Rod Fanni's goal-line clearance, are glimpses of exactly what he could be. One of the very best, quite simply.
That's what PSG forked out an eye-watering €45m for in August 2012, when Lucas was still a teenager. Yet herein lies the problem. The focus appears to be on what he one day should be, rather than what he actually is—a fine winger, with pace, the ability to stretch play and with end product.
Maybe Lucas is a victim of his own honesty. An intelligent and open talker, he has always been frank about missing his home and family back in Sao Paulo, and about his dislike for the sometimes-harsh climate in northern Europe.
Yet Shakhtar Donetsk’s Bernard is no different. He publicly agonised over a move to the Donbass Arena. He has also had a far less productive season in Ukraine than Lucas has had in France, yet he has still been selected.
One prestigious Brazilian Ligue 1 alumnus, Juninho Pernambucano, last year accused Scolari of “forcing (Lucas) out of the squad,” per ESPN FC.
This isn't about Bernard or even Scolari, though. Each coach has to make his choices based on group equilibrium and the rest. Maybe he simply doesn't fancy Lucas. That's fair enough.
Yet Lucas is showing us now, starting with that performance at Lille, what he’s really made of. He may have felt that this summer’s tournament should have been a defining moment of his career, but it his reaction to such profound disappointment that tells us Lucas can go on to be a true great.
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