Brazil boss Tite says Gabriel Martinelli’s high-level performances for Arsenal this season helped earn him a place on the plane to Qatar for the upcoming World Cup.
The 21-year-old’s inclusion on the 26-man list was a big talking point in his homeland given his comparative lack of experience – he only has 81 minutes of senior international football to his name – and the fact it came at the expense of well-known names including Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Flamengo’s Gabriel Barbosa.
The news certainly took star man Neymar by surprise. Filming himself watching the announcement at home, the PSG star raised his eyebrows when Martinelli’s name read out.
Later in the day, Tite told Globo Esporte: “Gabriel Martinelli’s role: Outward, winger, aggressive. He’s been one of the highlights at Arsenal, at the top of the Premier League.
“A player of individual plays, of transitions in speed. Who was with us in two call-ups, who’s been maintaining this high level.
“In this competition, we say that these athletes compete at a high level. Others could have been called up, and it would have been fully fair. And there are arguments for others that could be called, that’s also true.
“They are choices. Choosing an athlete that he is… within the characteristics of the team and the model, we need sharp players on the sides. Incisors on the sides. That’s how the team came together. So having these players, which is the case with Martinelli as well.”
While Martinelli may not have many senior caps to his name, he was part of the under-23 squad that won Olympic gold at the Tokyo Olympics. He even scored the decisive penalty in a shootout victory over Mexico at the semi-final stage before spending the final on the bench.
Back in the summer, he talked on the Wrighty’s House podcast about how Qatar 2022 was a long-standing dream:
“It means a lot. I’m trying to do everything to go to the World Cup. Since I was seven, when I started playing football, my dad told me ‘When you turn 21, we will have the World Cup and you are going!’ Every single day he was like ‘2022, hard work!’”
In further good news for Martinelli, he’s expected to sign improved terms at Arsenal in the coming weeks. He’s already hinted as much suggesting he “just needs to get a pen.”
Brazil kick off their World Cup on 24 November against Serbia and will then face Switzerland and Cameroon. They are widely considered the favourites to win the tournament.