Often overlooked when fans and pundits reel off the names of the Brazilian stars expected to wow us here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Elano nonetheless remains a crucial part of A Seleção’s bid for a sixth world crown.
Indeed, it was the Galatasaray man who provided the assist for Maicon’s opener and slotted home the second himself in Brazil’s 2-1 opening Group G win over Korea DPR; the midfielder showing why he has been a favourite of coach Dunga since the USA 1994-winning captain took the Brazil reins in 2006.
Involved in the opening game of the Dunga era, a draw with Norway in August 2006, Elano made an early impression with a brace in the new man’s first win at the helm the following month against arch-rivals Argentina. Important to the balance of the side thanks to his tactical awareness and tenacity, here at South Africa 2010 he appears to playing more as a genuine No10 – a role he performed earlier in his career at both Guarani and Santos.
“I always try to do what is asked of me, and keep doing what I’ve done ever since I broke into A Seleção,” Elano told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “Goalscoring chances have been coming my way and that’s what happened (against Korea DPR). It was one of the most important performances of my career, particularly as it came at the World Cup. I’m really happy that my name’s now gone down in the competition's history.”
Brazil fans will be hoping the 29-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on 14 June, has plenty more chances to add to his tally in his country's bid for glory on South African soil. Playing alongside the likes of Kaka, Robinho and Luis Fabiano should make the task that much easier, with Elano virtually assured of good service and able to steal into the spaces created by the high-profile attacking trio.
That is precisely what happened at Ellis Park Stadium after 72 minutes of the game on 15 June. Robinho made a diagonal run from left to right before dissecting the North Korean defence with a through ball weighted so well that Elano was able to slide it first-time past the keeper and into the far corner. “I’ve got some quality players alongside me. You only need to look at Robinho’s pass for the goal,” said the former Manchester City player.
“We’ve worked on that move a lot. When I came off the pitch I was congratulated by Dunga, who said that I’d managed to put what we’d worked on into practice,” added Elano, illustrating just why the coach holds him in such high esteem. However, he cannot afford to rest on his laurels, with the likes of Benfica’s Ramires, who played in Elano's position during Brazil's victory at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, and Barcelona star Daniel Alves both gunning for a starting berth.
However, they will have to wait, according to coach Dunga, whose charges’ next game is on 20 June against Côte d’Ivoire in Johannesburg’s Soccer City.“We’ve got several tactical options, depending on how the game is going. But I won’t be changing the team and he (Elano) will be playing.”
All of which must be music to Elano’s ears, as he is clearly relishing the opportunity to continue working away quietly in the background for A Seleção. “I’ve always considered myself one of the team’s supporting cast and that suits me fine,” said Elano as the interview concluded. “I never want to be the star, that’s how I’ve done well during my career. All I really want is to be part of a winning squad.”