New all-action striker has what it takes to become a smash hit on the Kop
Published 25/06/2015 | 02:30
It was one moment that Roberto Firmino wouldn't want to look back on.
The new Liverpool striker has commanded attention during his career for the party piece of arrogantly turning his head away just before scoring for 'no-look' finishes - as against Chile in a friendly at the Emirates in March - but this attempt involved no such irreverence.
It only involved remarkable inaccuracy. With Brazil trailing Colombia 1-0 in their second group game of the Copa America, Firmino was suddenly presented with an open goal after a mix-up between Jeison Murillo and David Ospina. The Brazilian matched them for haplessness by wildly blazing the ball over the bar.
It initially felt like the kind of miss that could have chequered an entire international career before it even got off the ground, not least given Dunga had entrusted his faith in the forward for a first start of the tournament.
The end of that match would see Neymar lose his head and get suspended for the rest of the tournament, and put Brazil on the brink of going out of the tournament themselves.
All four teams in the group were level on three points with one game left and Brazil were now missing the one star they are so dependent on.
Firmino couldn't finish his one big chance but, mercifully for the 23-year-old, that didn't finish him or his side's Copa America campaign. In the next match, he scored the goal that proved crucial to Brazil, as they narrowly beat Venezuela 2-1.
That perseverance is the story of his career and his all-round play, not least given the circuitous route he has taken to one of Europe's most historic clubs.
Firmino arrives at the Premier League via second-tier Brazilian side Figueirense and unfashionable Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.
That same perseverance also means Liverpool fans will get to watch their new player in a new light on Saturday when Brazil face an awkward quarter-final with Paraguay in Concepcion.
The one thing about this match and that miss, however, is that Brazil's style under Dunga doesn't make the most of Firmino's best qualities.
The forward is at his best when energetically bustling and harassing defenders, but Brazil don't really play that type of pressing game.
The Colombia game saw the side unimaginatively swing crosses into the box to be easily cleared, and Firmino's miss came out of 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' side play was the Venezuela match.
Brazil had much more possession and more space - and, perhaps tellingly, didn't have Neymar dominating every single aspect of their play - so Firmino was able to link up with and play off the other attackers more freely.
It suited him so much more. His goal came from Willian driving down the left, with Firmino then peeling off to the right to easily finish a supreme cross from the Chelsea winger. This is the kind of move that should excite Liverpool, even if their new forward still has to evolve as a player.
The wonder is also how Brazil will set up against Paraguay, and whether they will be so free-wheeling. Either way, Firmino now looks a fixture in the team for this Copa America.
The 23-year-old did one of the scheduled press conferences this week and his shyness came through.
It is a shyness that is not reflected in his abrasive style of play. Firmino may still have some way to go until he totally eliminates misses like that against Colombia from his game, but he almost always offer something worth looking at. (© Independent News Service)