The winner of the adidas Golden Ball during Brazil’s charge to a fourth title at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™, Romario de Souza Faria knows all about the pressure of representing A Seleção at the competition. And as he also knows, that pressure will be greater than ever when his country plays host to the rest of the footballing world in four years' time.
Romario’s contribution to the tournament’s history made him an obvious choice as one of the guests at the unveiling of the Official Emblem of Brazil 2014 in Johannesburg. Taking the opportunity for an exclusive audience with the legendary goal-getter, FIFA.com asked him about his expectations for the big event on home soil and for Sunday’s Final between two nations he forged close ties with during the course of his club career.
FIFA.com: Romario, you know exactly what the FIFA World Cup means to the people of Brazil under normal circumstances. What can we expect then when the country hosts the event for the second time?
Romario: There’s huge expectation in Brazil, I can tell you that. As millions of people around the world know very well, Brazil is famous for its football, beaches, pretty women and samba. But with the 2014 World Cup coming up our responsibility is to show that there’s more to Brazil than those things, that it’s also a country that can get the job done. I can tell you that in the run-up to 2014 the country will be tackling issues affecting many other parts of the world, like crime and public safety, and we’ll be seeing incidence rates drop. There’s real hope that the country will change for the better in every way, in social and economic terms etc. I’m telling you, the world will see a different Brazil from 2014 onwards.
You experienced a lot of pressure at USA 1994, a tournament Brazil went into without having won the FIFA World Cup for 24 years. How much pressure will be on the side to win at home after two successive quarter-final eliminations?
It’s very simple: winning the title’s an absolute necessity for A Seleção in 2014, and the only pressure that will be on the players is the pressure to win. It can’t be any other way. The president of the country and Ricardo Teixeira, the President of the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation), have already said 2014 is the biggest thing there is, bigger than anything we’ve had since 1950. The responsibility is huge for the players and the coaching staff because the World Cup is coming back to Brazil after 64 years. We have to use our skill and be the champions.
Are you an admirer of the new generation of players, who should reach their peak at 2014?
No question, we’ve got a great bunch of kids. By the time 2014 comes around this generation will be an average age of between 24 and 26 and that’s important. But even more important is having a group of top-class players who can really make the difference.
Let’s turn to South Africa 2010 now. Do you think the Netherlands and Spain deserve to be in the Final?
With everything the two teams offer in terms of technical ability, they definitely deserve to be there. That’s the conclusion you reach when you look at their recent history too. When the World Cup started I said, as did several other people, that the Netherlands and Spain were two sides to really watch out for. And look what’s happened. The Dutch knocked us out and Spain, who are one of the big candidates, did the same to Germany. It’s got all the makings of the best game of the World Cup.
You played in both countries and you know all about the frustration both have experienced in the FIFA World Cup. Do you think they have finally overcome a barrier now?
I don’t think the Netherlands have because they’ve already reached this stage twice. Make no mistake, to overcome that barrier they need to win the Final. As for Spain, they’ve never got past the quarter-finals and they’ve got a very talented generation of players that’s made the most of this opportunity. Neither side will want to pass up this great chance they have of making history and that’s why I’m convinced it’s going to be a great game.
Whose side will you be on?
Listen, I had the chance to play in both countries. I spent five and a half years in the Netherlands (playing for PSV) and a year and a half with Barcelona, followed by a spell at Valencia. My heart will be divided although the most important thing is that, with two teams like these, football will be the winner. I won’t be cheering either side on although Spain are technically the better team to watch. They play the ball around more, and their style has been drummed into them by the coaches that came along after the [Johan] Cruyff generation. It’s funny to think that a Dutchman introduced this possession-based style to Spanish football. As for the Netherlands, they’ve got some skilful players too, but they all help each other out and are extremely disciplined in tactical terms. So the only thing I can say with any certainty is that it’s going to be a duel between two great footballing schools.