Gabriel Martinelli has defended his selection for Brazil’s World Cup squad and insists he ‘knows what he can do’ for his country.
The Arsenal striker’s call-up has been criticized as a ‘joke’, given his lack of playing experience for his national team.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a stellar campaign with Premier League leaders Arsenal, scoring five goals and registering two assists in 19 games, leading Brazil manager Tite to give him a seat on the plane for Qatar.
And he made his World Cup debut in the 2-0 win over Serbia.
But despite his brilliant start and involvement against Serbia, his call-up has been questioned, given he was chosen over Brazil star Roberto Firmino who has 55 caps to Martinelli’s three.
Now the Arsenal star has responded to criticism by supporting himself ahead of the tournament.
“I think it’s normal,” Martinelli told ESPN Brasil. “Some people in Brazil don’t know me and it’s also normal to say that other players deserved to be there [the squad].
“But I’m pretty cool about it. I think it’s normal.
“I know what I’m doing at my club, I know my abilities and I know what I can do. And you can be sure that I will do my best for the Brazilian team, in everything I can help the team that I will help. It will be a great experience for me. »
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Brazil star Neymar was among those who appeared surprised by Martinelli’s call after the Paris Saint-Germain star posted a video of him reacting to his country’s 26-man squad.
But the most notable criticism of Martinelli’s selection of the country’s veterans came from former Brazil star Neto, who said the selection shows “a lack of respect for football”.
Neto – who won 16 caps for the Selecao between 1988 and 1993 – told Os Donas da Bola: “It’s a shame, a joke! I feel ashamed! Not because of Dani Alves’ story. What is Martinelli’s story? 33 career goals.
“It’s a shame, a lack of respect for football.
“To do this with football shows that you don’t deserve the position you are in. Calling Martinelli and not calling Gabigol is heresy, disrespectful. The biggest disgrace of all call-ups.
“Calling Martinelli shows that you, Tite, should not occupy the position you occupy, because you are not fair to Gabigol.”
Despite the controversy, the striker revealed the raw emotions he felt upon learning of his call-up.
“I’m very happy,” said Martinelli. “It’s one of the most important moments in my life and in my family’s life too – I’m in a rush, I’m so excited to go out there and be part of this team.
“I cried a lot, I couldn’t even speak and I was with my family and on the phone, but I had to turn off the phone and call them later because I couldn’t even speak.
“I think it will be good for my career and playing the World Cup will be amazing. I’m so excited to go there and I’m ready for the challenge and hopefully we win it.
“I think my form at Arsenal has been so important because if I don’t play well at Arsenal I can’t be called up and that’s why I’m here because I’m fine with the club.
“When I spoke to Mikel [Arteta]he was so happy for me, said congratulations and said go ahead and smash it.
Five-time world champions Brazil begin their World Cup campaign against Serbia in Group H on Thursday, November 24.
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