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Gone goals

The striker who makes Jermain Defoe’s international drought look tiny

Jermain Defoe's international goalscoring drought pales into comparison when compared with one Brazilian striker

The joy on Jermain Defoe’s face was clear for all to see as, at the age of 34, the Sunderland striker steered in his first international goal since November 2013.

It wasn’t his best England goal. That arguably came against Italy. It wasn’t his most important. That came against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup.

But after all the hard work, the spell in Canada with Toronto FC, not to mention his emotionally charged pitch walk with Bradley Lowery, there wasn’t a more popular goalscorer in Wembley.

Four years might sound like a long time but compared to one striker who’s recently made an international return it’s a walk in the park.

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A nomad

Introducing Ricardo Oliveira. A man who went ten years between international goals for Brazil.

Fans of the ten clubs he’s played for through his 15-year career will be familiar with the Brazilian striker who turned 36 in May.

His international career is much like his club career. Long, nomadic and full of ups and downs.

Let’s start at the beginning.

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Debut

Oliveira’s first taste of international football came during the 2004 Copa America.

Having impressed domestically with Portuguesa and Santos the young striker earned a move to Spain with a Valencia team under the guidance of Rafa Benitez.

Breaking into Brazil’s squad was no mean feat. Oliveira, at 24, was the oldest striker in a squad also containing Luis Fabiano, Adriano and Vagner Love.

Despite playing second fiddle to Fabiano and Adriano he managed to get a first international goal, against Mexico in the quarter-final, as Brazil lifted the trophy.

With Adriano, Ronaldo and Robinho to compete with regular starts were few and far between, but he still managed to rack up another two goals in 2005, by which point he was playing for Real Betis.

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Drought

And then came the drought. One cap in 2006. One cap in 2007. No goals.

He went back to Sao Paulo to rediscover his form, then Milan, then Real Zaragoza, where he suffered relegation before moving back to Betis.

Aside from the first three seasons of his career with Portuguesa he’d not stayed anywhere for longer than two seasons, and was nowhere near the international stage by the time he moved to Al Jazira in 2009.

There was more chance of a non-league footballer making it all the way to the England team, via lifting the Premier League with a relegation candidate, than Oliveira putting on a Brazil shirt again.

Then something odd happened.

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Goals in the Gulf

The Brazilian settled. Six seasons in the Arabian Gulf League, the last of which was with Al Wasl, saw Oliveira net 96 goals.

The eyes of Brazil were back on the striker. Even more so when he returned home to play for Santos.

On paper Oliveira was far from the star of the show. Robinho, the crown prince of Santos, took that honour.

There was also international midfielder Lucas Lima, forever linked with a move to Barcelona, former Selecao star Elano, the latest player to be daubed ‘the new Neymar’ in Gabriel Barbosa and classy defensive midfielder Thiago Maia.

He topped scored in the 2015 Campeonato Brasileiro, pipping former sparring partner Vagner Love to the honour.

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Indian summer

Then, on 24 September 2015, exactly 15 years after making his senior debut, an injury to Roberto Firmino meant Oliveira had a way back into the Brazil squad.

A 74th minute strike was his first international goal in ten long years. His Indian summer continued with a goal the next year, against Paraguay.

Unlike Defoe, Oliveira’s international career is probably done now.

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The emergence of Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Barbosa mean Tite has plenty of attacking firepower to call upon.

Even when Jesus picked up an injury, Sport Recife’s Diego Souza was selected, while Luan and Jonas are also in the mix

But hey, he’s comeback from the wilderness once before, so you never know.