Gabriel Jesus expects tough test against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

As a forward, it is rather apt that Gabriel Jesus does not want to dwell too much on the past.


This may be due to a debut World Cup that did not go as planned for the Brazil striker.

Or, subsequently, a new season with Manchester City where the 21-year-old has played only a bit-part role for the Premier League champions.

Frustrated, disappointed, Jesus is determined to keep his emotions in check and focus on the challenges ahead.

They start this week with a return to the international fold and a trip to Saudi Arabia where Brazil will face the host nation on Friday in Riyadh and their arch-rivals Argentina in Jeddah four days later.

Having been left out of the squad for September games with the US and El Salvador, Jesus told Arab News exclusively:

“I’m very happy to be back with the national team for these games.

“I haven’t watched much of Saudi Arabia, but football has changed a lot and there aren’t easy teams anymore.

“I reckon they are a strong team and I know every team that faces Brazil really wants to beat us. We need to prepare for this game properly and then play really well to get the win against them.
“Argentina? It’s a ‘Clasico’ game for us, and also for them. It’s a big rivalry between us. We need to play our football, prepare the game well and play at our best because we are facing a great national team with great players.
“I just hope it can be a great show for the supporters and we are able to win.”

Saudi Arabia ended their World Cup with a well-deserved win over Egypt in Russia. 

Under coach Tite, Brazil are rebuilding after a World Cup in Russia where they lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals and failed to justify their tag as favorites.

Despite helping City secure a record-breaking title success, Jesus also failed to score in his five appearances and admitted:

“The World Cup didn’t go the way I wanted, but that is a past episode in my career. I overcame that, I learnt from it.

“I always said that playing in the World Cup is a dream for every player.

“I went with the thought of winning the World Cup, to do a good job there with the rest of my team-mates. It didn’t happen the way we wanted to.

“With Brazil, the expectations are always really high, the yardstick is always high for all the players.

“If that happens, it is because we have proved that we are able to win the competition. Unfortunately, we didn’t win it, but now it’s heads up and we have to look forward to keeping Brazil where it deserves to be (at the top).”

This time a year ago Jesus was feted as Brazilian football’s next striking sensation when he scored twice in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Chile.

Handed the iconic No. 9 shirt worn by legends such as Ronaldo, teammate Neymar once said that after Lionel Messi, compatriot Jesus was the second most skilful player he had played with.

Having lived in a Sao Paulo favela until he was 16 and brought up by mother Vera Lucia in a single-parent family, Jesus is used to battling to fulfil his dreams.

He is now hoping the internationals will allow him to find the form to persuade City manager Pep Guardiola to give him more starts.

Just two have come in the league and Jesus saw a cameo in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool overshadowed by a missed penalty from Riyad Mahrez that ended with Guardiola apologizing for not allowing him to take it.

“Pep Guardiola and the coaching staff decided that Riyad was going to take the penalty,” he revealed.

“Obviously I’m not happy. Like Riyad, I’ve been practicing (taking penalties). I would like to have taken it. I was confident, so I was not happy that they did not allow me.

“Pep spoke with me. This is part of football, sometimes these things happen. I will support Riyad if the manager chooses him again.”

“In the end, we drew, we didn’t lose, we stay top of the table, and that’s what matters.”

Riyad Mahrez’s penalty miss against Liverpool on Sunday cost Manchester City three points. 

City remain top on goal difference from Chelsea and Liverpool and Jesus – a £27 million signing from Palmeiras in January, 2017 – added:

“It’s very difficult to win here at Anfield, but not impossible. For small details we didn’t manage to win, but I think we were better than Liverpool overall.”

“Obviously, I’m not completely happy for not playing regularly. But I’m happy with my training sessions.

“People usually don’t see us training, they only see the games. When I don’t play, I’m not happy, but I keep training hard and keep being focused so when my opportunity arrives I can make the most of it. Now it’s time to focus on the national team.

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“I hope I can now return to play the same football I have always played with the national team.”