Trying to break into a squad that won the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and clinched its berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with something to spare was never going to be easy, particularly for someone with no previous appearances for Brazil’s senior side. Yet Lyon wide-man Michel Bastos did just that, convincing coach Dunga of his worth on the basis of performances in three friendly clashes.
Indeed, following March 2010’s meeting with the Republic of Ireland, the third of those friendlies, Bastos’ display earned fulsome praise from A Seleção supremo and in the process eased doubts surrounding Brazil’s troublesome left-back position. “I knew that I wouldn’t have much time to win a place and that opportunities were scarce, but I never lost faith,” the player told FIFA.com, having been included in the 23-man squad announced by Dunga on 11 May.
“Perhaps my feelings are even stronger because just six months ago I never imagined I would have come this far. It was just a dream, but it came true,” added Bastos, set to appear at his first FIFA World Cup finals.
‘Like riding a bike’
A further obstacle in Bastos’ path was the need to readjust to a role he has carried out only sporadically since arriving in French football with Lille nearly four years ago. Though a full-back by trade, at Les Dogues Bastos was moved further up the flank, a switch that brought with it a flurry of goals and assists as well as the attentions of Ligue 1’s biggest clubs.
Lyon it was who won the race for his signature in summer 2009, when shelling out the weighty sum of 18 million Euros. And after an inconsistent start at his new club, Bastos became a key feature of Les Gones’ attacking armoury during their run to the last four of the UEFA Champions League and a runners-up finish in the league.
But when you join up with a squad of this quality [Brazil] it automatically makes you perform better too, and that makes things easier.
“In Brazil I played at full-back for nearly five years. But after arriving at Lille they played me as a left-midfielder, as a left-winger and even up front. It’s the same thing that happened to a lot of other Brazilian full-backs who play in Europe,” said the player, who has taken his return to left-back with A Canarinha in his stride. “Fortunately I was able to readjust quickly. It’s like riding a bike: it always comes back to you.”
However, despite his innate offensive instincts, a determination to underline his defensive solidity meant that Bastos appeared reluctant to push forward in the friendlies against England, Oman and Ireland. “Dunga called me up thanks to my speed, dribbling ability and powerful shooting. But fortunately I was also able to show my defensive qualities during those games,” said the 26 year old from Pelotas, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. “At the same time though, Dunga gave me the freedom to play my football and told me not to forget to attack (as well as defend).”
Able to perform in a number of roles, the versatile flank player underlined his willingness to line up wherever he is needed. “I think that I’m a bit like Daniel Alves or other players who can play in several positions. I think that Dunga has a lot of options to choose from, but I don’t think he’s obliged to play me in a more attacking role.”
After enjoying a well-earned rest back on Brazilian soil since the end of the Ligue 1 season, Bastos is set to report for Brazil’s pre-tournament training camp as of today, Friday 21 May. For the former Feyenoord, Atletico Paranaense, Gremio and Figueirense man, the South Africa 2010 preparations are a valuable opportunity to get to know his Seleção colleagues better: “The more established lads need time to get used to new players coming into the set-up."
"That’s why this preparatory phase will be important. But when you join up with a squad of this quality it automatically makes you perform better too, and that makes things easier.”
Not that Bastos is set to have things all his own way in the battle for a starting berth in Dunga’s line-up, with rival left-back Gilberto used 21 times in the position since Brazil’s USA 1994-winning captain took the national-team reins in 2006. “I don’t think that either of us is closer to starting than the other,” said the Lyon star as the interview drew to a close, with one eye on the South Americans' opening Group G encounter against Korea DPR on 15 June.
“It’s really going to depend on this pre-World Cup training camp and each player’s physical condition. That said, of course I’m hoping to start and I’ll give everything I’ve got to make that happen.”