One of the trends favoured by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on his return to the helm of A Seleção Brasileira has been assembling a squad featuring more domestic-based performers. At the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 there are ten players that come under that category, even without including Neymar, who has only recently signed on the dotted line for Barcelona.
On the other hand, this Brazil group also includes players that have carved out virtually their entire careers abroad. A prime example is Givanildo Vieira de Souza, better known as Hulk, who is now finally gaining recognition in his homeland after already becoming a household name in many other corners of the globe.
A native of Paraiba state, Hulk had a spell in the youth system at Sao Paulo and made his debut in the pro game at fellow Brazilian outfit Vitoria, though he would make just two top-flight appearances for the Baiano club. His departure began a journey that has taken in three different Japanese teams, Porto and, since September 2012, Zenit.
But it is only now, with a FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil looming large, that the seasoned 26-year-old attacker has the ideal opportunity to show his countrymen first-hand what he is capable of. This process may begin on Saturday in Brasilia, when he is expected to start against Japan in Brazil’s Group A opener.
“My main concern is to do my job properly, like I’ve been doing up to now,” he told FIFA.com on Friday, following A Seleção’s final pre-match training session at the Estadio Nacional. “I’ll be trying to be as focused as possible and do what the coach asks me to. I won’t necessarily go into the game thinking about how I can win over the fans.”
During the friendly against England on 2 June, at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Hulk had to endure supporters chanting for the introduction of Lucas – in theory his direct rival for a starting spot. At the time, the Zenit player insisted it did not bother him, aware as he is that Brazilian fans have been unable to follow his career progress as closely as Lucas's or Neymar’s for example – both of whom first rose to stardom within the domestic game.
Often freely admitting he is better known in Europe than in Brazil, Hulk will take heart from Felipão’s faith in his abundant powers. Among these are the dynamism and tactical discipline to help give his side an edge in midfield, as well as a surfeit of speed and skill in wide areas. Next on the agenda is integrating his undoubted qualities with those of his team-mates, all pulling together to achieve the tactical plans Scolari has in mind.
I’ll be trying to be as focused as possible and do what the coach asks me to. I won’t necessarily go into the game thinking about how I can win over the fans.
Hulk happy with recent results
On that subject, the training sessions and friendly games of recent weeks have certainly proved productive. Following a 2-2 draw with England, Brazil went on to dispatch France 3-0 in a morale-boosting win in Porto Alegre.
“Little by little, without getting carried away or trying to take shortcuts, we managed to pick up a great result in our last game,” said Hulk. “We’re going to stick to the good things we did and, when the game [with Japan] comes along, try and put them into practice again.”
Hulk is expected to start against the Asian champions in a wide attacking role, with young Barça starlet Neymar on the opposite flank. The idea, however, is to make the most of the side’s improved synergy and switch positions regularly in a bid to catch opponents off-guard.
“We’ve got total freedom to swap positions and it’s been working for us," remarked Hulk. "And that’s not just Neymar and I, it applies to all the forward players."
Clearly, providing this Seleção squad gels into a tight-knit unit, their array of attacking talent will have the chance to shine and prove decisive, which in turn should take pressure off the rest of the team. And that is where Hulk’s opportunity to prove himself to the local fans could come in, even though he reiterated it is not his main concern.
“If I were to win them over, the way I’d like to do it is like this: through my performances on the pitch, by giving it my best,” he concluded. “And that’s what I intend to do.”