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The new jewels

Cassio, Lucas, Alexandre Pato, Renato Augusto and the twins Rafael and Fabio are the most promising talents in Brazil. Who are they? Can they one day replace Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho?

Goalkeeper Cassio was the main reason Brazil won the South American U-20 Championship in Paraguay this year, yet he was not even originally picked to be in the squad. The lanky 19-year-old was only called up when first choice Fabio failed a doping test and was suspended (the decision was later overturned but by then the tournament had finished). Although he was still only second in the pecking order, when Muriel was also suspended for the final group-stage game against Paraguay, Cassio was given his chance and never looked back, keeping his place for the rest of the competition.
Despite having a distinctly shaky defense in front of him, Cassio was outstanding in the final stages and his reflex saves helped Brazil win the title with an unbeaten record.
Shortly afterwards, he made an even bigger leap when Brazil coach Dunga called him into the squad for the friendlies against Chile and Ghana in Sweden as a replacement for the injured Helton.
All this happened while Cassio remained the fourth-choice goalkeeper at Gremio, though he has now had some outings in the first team. Raised in the Rio Grande do Sul town of Veranopolis, Cassio had made a habit of getting lucky breaks and training them to his fortune.
As a boy he washed cars at a local petrol station to provide some extra income for his mother. That changed on the day that a delegation from Gremio stopped to fill up their car after a session of watching local youngsters nearby. Jose Alzir, the leader of the delegation, got into a conversation with Cassio and invited him to a trial.
Cassio passed and in 2003, he helped Gremio win the Brazilian U-15 tournament – again after replacing an injured colleague. “When Cassio sees a chance, he takes it and you can’t get him out of the team,” said Alzir.