Upon being handed the Brazil reins, Dunga swiftly set about
tackling one of the most difficult tasks in any coach's job:
phasing in a new generation of hungry young players. Among those
Seleção days were brought to an end were Dida, Roberto
Carlos, Cafu and Ronaldo, men who took with them a wealth of
Clearly the new coach would need an on-the-pitch lieutenant, someone to act as a steadying influence while the new boys grew used to the burden of such a historic shirt. Rising to the challenge was centre-back Lucio of German giants Bayern Munich, a veteran of two FIFA World Cups™.
And Brazil's 30-year-old captain was also more than happy to take time out from pre-match preparations to offer a unique insight into the historic clash with South American rivals Argentina. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, he shares his memories of the clásico as a fan and later as a protagonist, and explains why the game is about more than just three points.
FIFA.com: Lucio, we are just hours away from the South
clásico and the pressure is on both sides. How would you
define the fierce rivalry between Brazil and Argentina?
Lucio: It's a match which has a history all of its own. This contest is not something that is only felt by the fans or the press: when we're out on the pitch we feel it too. For both sides, this game is more important than any other. This is because we know that it is a battle between Brazilian and Argentinian football, to see which is the strongest in South America. It's a special rivalry.
So, you must have a lot of memories from past encounters.
Can you tell us about a match you saw as a spectator?
The one that probably had the biggest impact on me was a match played in Porto Alegre, when I was playing for Internacional and could still only dream of being called up to the Seleção. It was a friendly game in 1999 and Brazil beat Argentina 4-2, with Rivaldo scoring a hat-trick. The streets were totally empty, and from outside the stadium you could hear the fans celebrating when Brazil scored. It's a feeling that's difficult to forget.
You would later get your chance to represent your country
at senior level. Personally speaking, which was the toughest game
you've played against Argentina?
I think it was in 2001, when (Luiz Felipe) Scolari was our coach. The Argentinians had already booked their place at the World Cup in Korea and Japan and we had to go and play them in Buenos Aires. We quickly went 1-0 up, but they turned the scoreline on its head and put our involvement [in the finals] in doubt. Fortunately, not only did we end up qualifying but we went on to be crowned world champions.
And the one you most enjoyed?
Without doubt the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany. Moreover, that was one of the Seleção's best displays in recent years. A performance like that deserves even more credit when there is a title on the line. We won 4-1, and I'll never forget it.
If you had to pick one Argentina player to join the Brazil
squad, who would it be?
Brazil have got great players in every position, but I think it's always spectacular to have a forward who is as dangerous and decisive as (Lionel) Messi in your team.
I realise that this debate is hardly new in Brazilian or Argentinian football circles, but who was the best: Pele or Maradona?
You're pulling my leg aren't you? Pele, of course, no question about it!
Your Bayern Munich team-mate Martin Demichelis is
unavailable for Argentina through suspension. Do you have anything
to say to him?
No, I don't like to preach to anybody, but I do feel sorry for him. The only thing I can assure you is that Brazil are going to give their all. We all know the style of play Dunga wants from us and we will be using every last ounce of effort in this match. After all, we're at home and playing against Argentina.
And the last question, who will win on Wednesday?
I always back Brazil. Everybody knows that both are great teams, packed with talent and with players who can decide a match, and so anything is possible. But, where football is concerned, I always stick with Brazil.