Gabriel Jesus will follow in the footsteps of some legendary Brazilian players to wear the No.9 shirt at a World Cup after being handed the iconic number for this summer’s tournament.
The 21-year-old did not enjoy the best of seasons for Manchester City last term, but appears to have fended off competition from Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino for a starting berth at the 2018 World Cup.
Firmino’s performances for Liverpool last season would vindicate a starting role for most nations, but the 26-year-old will more than likely have to settle for limited playing time for Brazil this summer.
Head coach Tite gave the biggest indication of his starting XI for Brazil's World Cup opener in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Austria and Jesus rewarded the faith shown by his manager with the opening goal of the game.
Jesus is a relative novice in international football, but his scoring record is nothing short of outstanding, netting 10 goals in his first 17 matches for the Seleção. What’s more impressive about Jesus’ record is that seven of those goals were scored in Brazil’s hugely competitive World Cup qualification campaign.
Leading the line for Brazil at a World Cup is a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old, but the fact Jesus has already captained Brazil would suggest the City striker is more than up for the challenge.
Unlike four years ago, Tite has really galvanised the Brazil squad and now they are genuine contenders this summer, even more so that Neymar appears to have returned back to his best after a long spell out injured.
With the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho providing creativity for Brazil, Jesus will not be short of goalscoring chances. You can find odds as long as $17 for Jesus to win the Golden Shoe at the 2018 World Cup and they should be considered, with Brazil expected to at least reach the last four.
Romelu Lukaku is priced as high as $19 and Thomas Muller at $34, and both should also be considered for the top scorer market, but it’s Jesus that is the WhoScored.com pick for the tournament.
Tite’s side have only lost one of their last 21 matches and arguably have the fewest issues to resolve in their starting XI of all of the pre-tournament favourites.
Jesus was only 17 and painting the streets of Brazil when the Selecao were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Now he has the chance to lead Brazil to an unprecedented sixth World Cup trophy.