It was a moment that Roberto Firmino will not want to look back on. The new Liverpool striker has commanded attention in his career for the party piece of arrogantly turning his head away just before scoring for “no-look” finishes.
The 23-year-old’s winner against Chile in a friendly at the Emirates in March was like this, but here at the Copa America last week there was no such irreverence, only remarkable inaccuracy.
With Brazil trailing Colombia 1-0 in their second group game, Firmino was suddenly presented with an open goal after a mix-up between Jeison Murillo and goalkeeper David Ospina. The Brazilian matched them for haplessness by wildly blazing the ball over the crossbar.
For Firmino’s part it initially felt like the kind of miss that could have chequered an entire international career before it had even got off the ground. Brazil lost and star striker Neymar was sent off after the final whistle, but mercifully for Firmino it did not finish him or their Copa America campaign.
In the next match on Sunday he scored as Brazil beat Venezuela 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals. Perseverance in the face of stiff odds has been the story of his career, not least given the circuitous route Firmino has taken to one of Europe’s most historic clubs, arriving at Anfield via second-tier Brazilian side Figueirense and unfashionable Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.
Another thing about his miss against Colombia is that it happened when Brazil were not exactly playing to Firmino’s qualities. He is at his best when energetically working along the line and harassing defenders, but Dunga’s side do not really play that type of pressing game.
Against Colombia, Brazil seemed content unimaginatively firing crosses into the box to be easily cleared. Firmino’s miss came in a context in which he was barely getting a feel for the ball or the game.
More relevant to Liverpool and the way Brendan Rodgers’ team play was the Venezuela match. Brazil had much more possession and more space – and, perhaps tellingly, did not have the suspended Neymar dominating their attack – so Firmino was able to link up with and play off the other attackers more freely.
His goal came from Willian driving down the left with Firmino then peeling off to the right to finish the Chelsea winger’s cross.
This is the kind of move that should excite Liverpool, even if their new forward still has to develop. Media appearances this week revealed a diffidence that is not reflected in his abrasive manner on the field. Yet his bustling, all-action style should soon speak volumes at Anfield.Reuse content