Brazil's Oscar drapes himself in a Brazilian flag after leading his country to victory over Portugal in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
For some this is just the start. For others this will be as good as it gets. Life has a way of handing us opportunities. What we do with them is up to us. The decisions we take ultimately shape the people we become, for better or worse.
It has taken Brazil 20 years to extract revenge. The South Americans are celebrating their fifth world youth championship following a thrilling 3-2 victory over Portugal in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia. A brilliant individual performance from Oscar proved decisive in Bogota.
The 19-year-old midfielder rose, magnificently, to the occasion. His curling free kick gave Brazil a flying start, his lightening quick reaction gave them a lifeline, and his audacious extra time chip gave them the glory against a team which had hitherto posted six successive clean sheets.
Despite his match winning performance, Oscar was overlooked for the Golden Ball. The award for tournament MVP, together with the Golden Boot for top scorer, went to his Brazilian teammate Henrique, whose five goals were instrumental in his country's success.
In 1991 Portugal and Brazil were again the protagonists, playing for the gold medal in what was then known as the World Youth Championship. Stalemate ensued and not even extra time could separate them in front of a packed house at Lisbon's Stadium of Light.
A penalty shootout was the only way to determine a winner. Portugal's youngsters kept their nerve and converted all four to retain the trophy they had won two years earlier in Saudi Arabia. The 'Golden Generation', featuring Rui Costa, Jorge Costa, Joao Pinto and Luis Figo, were triumphant again.
The only surprise was that none of these supremely talented teenagers took home the Golden Ball along with their winners' medals. The ultimate individual accolade went to another Portuguese player. As the anchor of the midfield, the trophy was awarded to the youngest member of the squad: 18-year-old Emilio Peixe.
He was good. So good in fact Peixe was already an established starter for Sporting by the time he helped the U20s beat Brazil and a senior international before the age of 19. He had the soccer world at his feet but an abortive transfer to Spain badly derailed his career.
Peixe would lift the Portuguese Cup some years later, but unlike the stellar achievements of his peers, the 1991 World Youth Championship turned out to be the pinnacle of his playing accomplishments. His outstanding potential was never fulfilled, though in recent years he returned to the Portuguese Federation to coach the Under 16s.
Portugal's Golden Generation are all now approaching their 40th birthdays. Their time in the spotlight came and went. Some went on to become millionaire household names but history tends to reveal itself at an agonisingly slow pace.
By the time of the Qatar World Cup in 2022 we will have a good idea of how good this latest crop of Brazilian starlets really is. Will Oscar, the hat trick hero, be pulling the strings for the senior side? Will Henrique, the leading scorer, continue to work hard to improve his game and become a goal machine in the fashion of the great Ronaldo?
No question they, and others, including Dudu who caught the eye, are world beaters right now. But in context they are at the dawn of their professional careers. Collectively they are the best of the best in their age category and their fluid style made them worthy winners in Colombia.
Portugal, this time, had to settle for second best. But like the Brazilians there is talent by the boatload. Nelson Oliveira is undoubtedly one to watch. Four goals and two assists clearly earmarked his potential while goalkeeper Mika was the deserved recipient of the Golden Glove.
Some players mature faster than others. Those of us fortunate to witness the U-20 World Cup here in Canada four years ago knew then Sergio Aguero had something special. A month ago Manchester City paid Atletico Madrid a reported $57 million for the Argentine's services.
All these young players have enormous talent. Nobody gets to represent their country at any age level without a high degree of ability. Henrique may go on to spearhead Brazil's attack when it hosts the next FIFA World Cup in 2014. Perhaps he will add the World Cup to his U-20 gold medal.
Or maybe, like millions of others, he'll just be watching the tournament on TV.
Follow Nigel Reed on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Nigel_Reed
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