Jo: I never imagined all this happening
There did not look to be anywhere for Neymar to go. He had been forced closer and closer towards the touchline, and his path goalwards was barred by two Mexican defenders. Yet over in the centre of the penalty box, Jo made sure he was ready to receive a cross, should one come his way.
“You have to prepared for anything with [Neymar],” the Atletico Mineiro striker told FIFA.com. “Because of that I got in position to take a pass from him. I could picture him getting past those defenders and knocking it to me.”
That is precisely what happened, with Barcelona’s recent signing unleashing all his skill and inventiveness to leave his markers trailing and slip the ball through for Jo, who duly fired Brazil’s clincher in a 2-0 success. And his goal came deep in injury time, just as it did against Japan, when the former Manchester City man capped a lightning counter-attack by latching on to a delightful pass from Oscar and sealing a 3-0 win for A Seleção.
Things are certainly going well for Jo at the moment, for both club and country. At O Galo, he is leading the line for the most prolific attack in this year’s Copa Libertadores, while with Brazil he has been on the end of sublime assists from Neymar and Oscar.
“Every striker would be happy to have guys like those alongside him,” Jo said with a smile. “At Atletico Mineiro, I get to play with three great attackers in Ronaldinho, Diego Tardelli and Bernard, who’s in this Brazil squad too. And now I’ve had the good fortune to play with even more top players.”
Even so, his team-mates’ selflessness and gifted approach play would come to nothing if Jo was not in the right place at the right time to finish moves off. “Of course I’m also happy that I’ve been managing to stick these goals away,” he said.
Jo must be half-wondering just how this has all come about, particularly since the 26-year-old’s name – Joao Alves de Assis Silva to use his full one – was not on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s final squad list for Brazil 2013. Indeed, the two out-and-out centre-forwards included were first-choice starter Fred and Internacional’s rising star Leandro Damiao.
Unfortunately for the latter, he suffered a muscle injury shortly before the competition, during the squad’s training period in Goiania. Felipão moved swiftly to call up Jo and put him initially on standby, until the true extent of the injury to Damiao – an ex-team-mate of his at Internacional – was revealed.
“I was having a break in Rio de Janeiro, just chilling out at home, while I was expecting to head back to Belo Horizonte that night,” Jo explained. “When I got the call, I was so pleased. The first thing I did was tell my dad, my wife and the rest of my family. It’s really exciting being able to be here.”
Thus brought into A Seleção at the last minute, it is fitting that the 6ft 2ins player's goals have come in the dying embers of his side’s opening two games. Starting on the bench in both matches, on both occasions he replaced experienced Fluminense No9 Fred and was subsequently able to grab goals via first-time strikes.
“I’ve also been a bit lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” said the player, who has been praised by Felipão for his aerial prowess and ability to bring others into play. “Everything’s gone really well so far hasn’t it? I hope I’m able to keep doing my bit.”
This is only Jo’s second FIFA competition in the mythical yellow-and-blue strip, having first been a part of then coach Dunga’s squad at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, prior to a five-year spell in the international wilderness.
“Of course I never imagined all this happening to me with A Seleção Brasileira, but that’s why football is so enjoyable and good,” he said as the conversation concluded. “There are a lot of twists and turns in football, but I’ve earned this opportunity.”
And having been given the chance to taste life alongside so many top talents, on no less a stage than the FIFA Confederations Cup, as long as you savour that opportunity, what does it matter how it comes about?
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