An inspirational figure both on and off the pitch, Maicon’s importance to Brazil was underlined by his vital opening goal in the 2-1 victory over Korea DPR that opened their South Africa 2010 campaign. Clearly struggling to get to grips with the lively and well-drilled Chollima, relief flooded through Dunga's team after the right-back found the net from an implausibly acute angle shortly after half-time.

"I'm a team player, I like to try and gee up my team-mates, and it's something that comes naturally," Maicon told in an exclusive interview. "That's something I've done since I was a child, but I also grow with every new experience. You learn from every game you play and every goal you score. You're always discovering new things which you then try and put into practice. "

It always means so much to play at a FIFA World Cup with the Brazilian national team. My confidence is soaring.


Not that the Inter Milan star is the only leader in a 23-man group also containing the likes of Lucio, Gilberto Silva and Kaka. "I'm not the only one in the squad who has a motivational role to play, there are other guys who do that too," said Maicon. The former Cruzeiro and Monaco player has come a long way since he was a bit-part member of a Brazil squad headlined by Diego and Robinho that failed to qualify for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament in 2004. He is now an integral part of the five-time world champions' hopes of a sixth title in South Africa.

Power, fitness, speed and technique characterise the player's bursts down the right flank, while his eye for goal was illustrated by the aforementioned stunner against Korea DPR from Elano's inch-perfect assist. Just how much scoring his first FIFA World Cup goal meant to Maicon was also clear when the player burst into tears as he was hugged by his grateful team-mates. "It's a great feeling, every player dreams of doing that," the Budweiser Man of the Match reflected. "It always means so much to play at a FIFA World Cup with the Brazil national team. I'm living the dream and it was a special moment for me and something I want to enjoy for the rest of my life."

This is the best moment of my career. Things are going wonderfully well, and I don’t want that to stop.

Brazil's Maicon

That aforementioned award was the latest in a golden 12 months for the gifted player, who followed up victory at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil colours with a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League titles with Inter Milan. What is more, Maicon's performances for A Seleção have been such that rival right-back Daniel Alves, a vital part of Barcelona’s brilliant attacking armoury, is reduced to a replacement role under Brazil coach Dunga.

"The titles I've won at club level and with A Seleção and the praise I received at the club and in the press make me feel really great," Maicon said. "My confidence is soaring and I'm up for it physically and mentally, which is even more satisfying when it happens in time for a World Cup finals. This is the best moment of my career. Things are going wonderfully well, and I don't want that to stop." That is a sentiment that his Seleção team-mates, and the entire Brazilian population for that matter, would surely echo.