Brazil's Endrick celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a...

Brazil's Endrick celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a friendly soccer match between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium in London, Saturday, March 23, 2024. The 17-year-old striker is widely expected to be in the starting lineup at Copa America, his first major event with the senior team. Credit: AP/Alastair Grant

SAO PAULO — The youngest player to score three goals for Brazil’s national team was Pelé. Now another player, also 17 but a few days older than one of greatest of all time, did the same wearing the iconic yellow shirt.

Endrick scored the winner for Brazil in a 1-0 friendly victory over England at Wembley Stadium in March, netted another in a 3-3 draw against Spain at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, and gave his team a last-minute 3-2 win over Mexico on June 8 amid preparations for the Copa America.

How far can the teenage sensation go? Brazil coach Dorival Júnior, who took over in January, has offered a hint: Endrick is a possible starter for the tournament in the United States in the same No. 9 shirt previously donned by two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo.

The Brazilian public and former players are unanimously excited about Endrick, who is expected to develop further after he joins Real Madrid from Palmeiras next season. Many already see the striker as the team's target man for the 2026 World Cup, and possibly keeping that place for the next two decades. This month's Copa America could provide a first glimpse of what Brazil's future could look like.

Endrick scored his three goals for the national team in about 100 minutes on the field and having only six shots on target during those three friendlies. He didn't score against the United States on Wednesday, but still had three chances in less than 30 minutes.

“We need to be calm, patient, avoid making any comparisons between Endrick and other athletes,” Dorival Júnior said after Brazil’s win over Mexico. “We need to be very careful about this boy. So much is happening in his life in such little time. What matters is that he doesn’t lose his essence. This mark (equalling Pelé‘s initial tally) brings attention and just adds to what he has done, the accomplishments he has had in such little time.”

The teenager has spoken like a veteran during his time with Brazil's national team. Earlier in June, Endrick said in an interview with The Associated Press that he still needs to introduce himself to fans. But his popped collar during games, lethal finishes in front of goal and evident confidence remind many of another Brazilian goal scorer, just an inch smaller — 1994 World Cup winner Romário.

Brazil's Endrick, right, celebrates with Rodrygo after scoring his side's...

Brazil's Endrick, right, celebrates with Rodrygo after scoring his side's second goal during a friendly soccer match between Spain and Brazil at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Messi and Argentina will try to win their third straight major title when they defend their Copa America championship while Brazil hopes 17-year-old Endrick will combine with Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo for success. Credit: AP/Jose Breton

“He is a great striker, I am sure we can hope to see a lot from him in the future,” Romário said in an interview with ESPN in March. “I agree it is too soon to make comparisons, especially with me. To reach Romario level he needs to do a lot of running."

Endrick became a beloved player at Palmeiras after 81 matches and 21 goals. The forward won the Sao Paulo championship title with his former club this year and in 2023. He was also part of the squad that won the Brazilian championship in 2022 and 2023. He will face tougher competition at European champion Real Madrid, but before that he wants a shot at securing his place in the national team.

He is already talking the talk to become a reference for the team in years to come.

“Pelé is Pelé. You should not make those comparisons, that's bad. Every one of us has their own story, their life, their reality. Just let history speak for itself," Endrick said after the match against Mexico. “I don't care about records, I only want to enjoy myself. Every time I step on the field it is my Disneyworld, my amusement park.”

Endrick might be unfazed by the pressure, but his teammates know it exists and spur him on to deliver goals and remain discreet off the field.

“We can see he is humble, he works hard and deserves to live this moment,” striker Gabriel Martinelli said. “It is his fate to score. We are very happy about it and we hope he gets even greater things.”

Excitement in Brazil is such that Ronaldo said two years ago he would have taken a 15-year-old Endrick to the World Cup in Qatar. He remains optimistic about the striker's future with the national team — and also at the Spanish club.

“Just look at what he has done with Brazil,” the former player said in early June. “And he will do no different at Madrid.”

Even coaches of other sports have taken notice that Brazil's No. 9 could be special.

“The lens with which Brazilian soccer players are looked at is very similar to how American athletes are treated by their media,” Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said after his team won Game 2 of the NBA Finals. “You see Endrick coming up, he is going to face that (pressure) soon.”

The first game of Endrick's first major tournament is scheduled for June 24, when Brazil takes on Costa Rica in Los Angeles in the Copa America.

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