Opinion: Botafogo need young guns to keep firing
The Fogão currently find themselves sitting at the top of the Brasileirão after 15 games. However, if they are to prove the doubters wrong and maintain this lofty league position, they will need their young players to step up and lend a hand.
The tough schedule during the Brazilian season and Botafogo's participation in the Copa do Brasil means they will be playing twice a week for the rest of the season, which could mean that the more senior players are not able to play in every game.
Earlier this week they faced Internacional and drew 3-3, just three days before their Sunday fixture at Portuguesa, which they won 3-1.
Clarence Seedorf’s form since joining Botafogo has been exceptional, but it would be dangerous for the team to become over-reliant on the 37-year-old. Because despite the Dutchman's professionalism and excellent fitness levels, the team will definitely need other players to chip in.
A Rising Star
All the focus on Botafogo's young players during pre-season was on striker Bruno Mendes and centre-back Doría. But another forward has emerged as one of the club's most promising young stars recently.
Vitinho was introduced to the senior side during the Carioca State Championships earlier this year, having only made a handful of appearances, and he has gone from strength to strength. He put in an excellent performance against Internacional on Thursday and scored two great goals from outside the area, one with his left boot and another with his right.
The young forward has a total of four goals and three assists this season, making him the third most productive attacker in the side behind Rafael Marques and Clarence Seedorf.
Due to a combination of injuries, suspensions, and squad rotation, three other under-21 players have played significant roles for Botafogo so far this term.
It is difficult to believe that Doría is the youngest of these, as his composure and confidence at the back belies his youth. This confidence can sometimes lead to errors and lapses in concentration, but he is already on the way to becoming one of the best defenders in the division.
Doría has been joined at the back by 20-year-old defender Gilberto Júnior, who has replaced the injured Lucas. The right-back had been one of Botafogo’s most consistent players in recent weeks so Gilberto has had a lot to live up to, but the youngster has stepped into his shoes with aplomb.
And as a young Brazilian full-back you would expect Gilberto to be weak defensively, but he has performed just as well without the ball and has shown some good tackling ability.
Similarly, youngster Gabriel has formed an effective partnership with Marcelo Mattos in the Botafogo midfield, and is in the team thanks to his excellent form rather than a lack of other options in this position.
And if you look at the rest of the Botafogo squad there are a whole host of young players waiting in the wings, who could get their own chances to shine as the gruelling season rolls on.
The 2013 Brasileirão could actually be won by the side who manages to keep their squad fit and fresh, as there will be little time to train and lots of time spent travelling around the country.
Botafogo do have plenty of youth in their squad who can do some of the running for the more experienced stars, but with a queue of teams breathing down their necks, getting the right combination of experience and exuberance in each game will be vital.