Lucio, Brazil’s voice of experience
"Let me see, there was Korea and Japan, France and Germany, so this'll be my fourth, right?" Brazil's captain and defensive rock Lucio asked FIFA.com, and he was not wrong, with South Africa 2009 being his fourth consecutive FIFA Confederations Cup.
This feat moves the 31-year-old centre-back, full name Lucimar Ferreira da Silva, level with Saudi Arabia's Al Khilaiwi and Mexican duo Pavel Pardo and Luis Suarez, though he remains one tournament short of compatriot Dida, who appeared at all five editions between 1997 and 2005. If the Seleção reach the latter stages in South Africa, and the Bayern Munich man is involved in each game, he will hit a landmark of 17 FIFA Confederations Cup encounters, second only to the 22 played by the AC Milan goalkeeper.
It therefore stands to reason that Lucio is the ideal person within Dunga's squad to ask about the 'Festival of Champions'. "There's something very particular about the Confederations Cup: you always take on top-class teams in pressure situations. It's a very short tournament and you don't get much time to recover," said the former Bayer Leverkusen star. "When you see the quality of the sides involved, there's no way you can say this title doesn't matter. It's also a very special opportunity with a view to next year's World Cup."
Team spirit the key
By this the cultured defender is not only referring to the chance to get used to the surroundings in South Africa, but an even more important factor in tournament success: group bonding. "The most important thing of all is the valuable opportunity for the squad to spend several days living together in a competitive situation. Everyone getting on well is vital to success at a World Cup, and the Confederations Cup is an excellent test of the chemistry between the players."
Morale is already high in the Brazil camp thanks to their fine form in South American Zone qualifying for next year's FIFA World Cup™, with the steady performances of Lucio, central-defensive partner Juan and keeper Julio Cesar earning almost as many plaudits as the Auriverde's superstar forwards.
"We're very proud that Brazil currently has the best attack and defence in the [South American] qualifiers. In the past there were always doubts surrounding the Seleção‘s defensive system so this recognition makes us all very happy," says Lucio, who was born in Planaltina, in Goias state. "I'm really pleased when the whole team plays as well as in the last two matches (4-0 and 2-1 wins over Uruguay and Paraguay respectively), but our defence is something special at the moment. On the other hand I know how it works with the Brazilian team: the pressure gets greater with every game."
Egypt up next
First up for Lucio and Co is their opening Group B match against Egypt, winners of the last two editions of the CAF African Cup of Nations. Likely to be leading the Pharaohs' front line is one Mohamed Zidan, of Bayern's German rivals Borussia Dortmund: "We've played against each other a good few times in the Bundesliga. He's an extremely quick forward who has the ability to win a game with a moment of individual skill."
And as the interview drew to a close, Lucio also felt the need to warn of the dangers of overconfidence if the Seleção plan to defend the crown they won at Germany 2005. "We'll have to be very focused (against Egypt), more than anything because it's our first game of the competition and those are always very tense. That's what this tournament's like: one challenge after another."