Brazil have always had a plethora of attacking prowess at their disposal. Pele, Zico, Kaka and Ronaldinho are just a few of the world-class stars that spring to mind from past eras.
The current crop of Brazilian forwards - Neymar, Oscar and Hulk to name but three from their seemingly inexhaustible supply of attacking talent - pose no less of a goal threat than some of their legendary predecessors.
However, it is common knowledge that when it comes to winning major tournaments, a solid defence and midfield can be just as important as a dangerous forward line.
Luiz Gustavo’s role in his country’s FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 victory proves as much. The defensive midfielder was ever-present for Brazil during the tournament, playing a major role in *A Seleção's *successful campaign that saw them concede just three goals on their way to lifting the trophy on home soil.
The Confederations Cup win crowned an outstanding season for the 26-year-old, who had helped Bayern Munich to an unprecedented treble of league, DFB Pokal and UEFA Champions League triumphs just months previously. The midfield stalwart, who now plies his trade at Bayern’s German Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg, is already preparing for this summer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
*FIFA.com *spoke exclusively to Gustavo about his role with the national side, the upcoming tournament in Brazil and his recent successes at both club and international level.
*FIFA.com: The World Cup is looming large on the horizon. Are you excited?Luiz Gustavo: *The whole world, not to mention every player who is set to take part, is happy that it’s just around the corner. Everyone, including me, is trying to prepare well. The whole world is waiting for the World Cup to start.
Would playing in a World Cup be the highlight of your career?A World Cup is always a career highlight for every footballer. Everyone in the Brazil team knows what we have to do. We want to try and win the competition. That’s the greatest thing you can achieve as a player.
What do you make of Brazil's group, which includes Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon?There are no easy opponents. You might say we have to prepare ourselves for seven finals. We have to focus on the job at hand, then we can achieve what we set out to do.
How do you deal with the pressure of having to win the World Cup? Everyone in Brazil expects you to triumph. Do the expectations of the media, the fans and everyone else place unnecessary pressure on the team? Or do they act as a motivation?Both – there’s added pressure and motivation. We know what the competition means to everyone in Brazil. We will do everything in our power to meet those expectations. They can’t wait for the World Cup to start.
I don’t regret it. It’s always good to have new challenges. That’s been the story of my career.
Things certainly went to plan at the Confederations Cup. What was the secret to Brazil's success in last year's tournament?The fans played a big part. When they get behind us, it’s unbelievable. Everyone in Brazil is crazy about football – I think that helped us a lot.
You played in all five matches at the tournament. Were you surprised to be such an integral part of Luiz Scolari's plans?No, it wasn’t a surprise. I’d been biding my time and he gave me an opportunity, which I grabbed with both hands.
How do you assess your role in the national side?It’s difficult to explain. We’re a group that always tries to help one another – as is also the case at Wolfsburg. The team’s in good shape and we all know how to pick each other up when we’re going through a difficult spell. We try and find a solution together.
Much has been talked about Brazil's incredible attack. Would you rather be the centre of attention?That isn’t important. I just want to win. I know exactly what I have to do in my position, but I can’t score that many goals because I don’t go forward that often. That’s why it doesn’t bother me. If I have to run for 90 minutes for my team, then that’s what I’ll do.
What can football fans expect from a World Cup held in Brazil?They can look forward to a great World Cup – it’s going to be a great spectacle. The Brazilians will give their all for everyone who has travelled to the country.
Last term, you also enjoyed a very successful season at club level. It’s been several months since Bayern secured an unprecedented treble - how would you sum up that historic campaign?2013 was a very good year for the club and for all the players. This season, they’re proving again just how good they are, both in Germany and on the world stage. They have a new coach and a new style, and things are going absolutely perfectly for them at the moment. My time in Munich was very nice and I was very happy, but now it’s over and I’m only focusing on the future.
Have you ever regretted leaving Bayern?I don’t regret it. It’s always good to have new challenges. That’s been the story of my career - I’ve always had to keep moving on to achieve my ambitions. I always look forward to new challenges.
You’ve been at Wolfsburg for nine months now. How have you enjoyed your time at the club so far?I’m very happy – we have a great project for the next few years. It’s going very well and we’re doing a good job. If we maintain our level of performance, we can achieve great things with this team.
What would be a realistic aim for Wolfsburg this season?We just want to win every game. If we manage to qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League, we’ll be satisfied.
The club has spent a lot of money on players. Do you think Wolfsburg could challenge the likes of Bayern and Dortmund in the near future?It’s impossible to say. We have to focus on ourselves. The club has a lot of potential, but we’ll just have to see what happens.
You made your national team debut at the age of 24. Two years later you won the treble with Bayern, lifted the Confederations Cup, now the World Cup is just around the corner. Has it all been a dream? Did you ever expect this?It’s not a dream. I’ve known since I was little what I wanted to achieve. I was at Bayern – a top club with whom I achieved almost everything. Now, everything is possible, both with the national team and with Wolfsburg. I know what I have to do and what I can do. I've worked hard for everything I have achieved so far in my career.
Some of Europe’s biggest clubs have been rumoured to be interested in signing you. Having signed for – and stayed at – Wolfsburg, would you say the Bundesliga is the strongest league in the world?It’s always nice when big clubs are interested in you, but at the moment I’m here and I’m very happy. I want to do my best at Wolfsburg. Thanks to Bayern, the Bundesliga has become even more well known in Brazil. Every stadium is sold out here and the league is very strong. I think it’s the best league in the world.