Ronaldo may have monopolised the headlines, but Marcos indubitably performed a decisive function in Brazil’s conquering of a fifth FIFA World Cup™. The goalkeeper, indeed, conceded just one goal in the entire knockout phase as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men strode to glory at Korea/Japan 2002.
As Brazil prepare to go for number six, FIFA.com caught up with the now-retired 40-year-old to discuss their chances, Scolari’s unique personality and coaching, his country’s current keepers and the best in the world, and the Seleção supporters.
FIFA.com: What are your expectations for this World Cup? Do you think Brazil are one of the favourites and who are their main rivals for the title?
Marcos: I think it’s going to be a big, beautiful party, just like every World Cup. Brazil are one of the favourites, mainly because we’re playing at home. We know what a difference that can make. The presence of the fans will be massively important for the team, and they can help to really put the opposition under pressure. Brazil are one of the main contenders to win the trophy, along with Argentina, Germany and Spain. I think we’ll have a slight advantage because we’re playing at home and will have our fans behind us.
When you get to practice, he’ll yell at you. Then he’ll put on a barbecue for everybody and he’ll be messing about and making jokes.
Do you think support for Brazil will grow in the coming days?
I think so. That was how it was during the Confederations Cup. The atmosphere inside the stadiums during the singing of the national anthem really lifted the team, and I hope it’s the same at the World Cup. Brazilians tend to take a while to get into the party mood. But things are starting to heat up. There is the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, Scolari has announced his final squad, and soon all the great players and teams will start to arrive. It won’t be long until the Brazilian people get into the World Cup spirit.
Many people are surprised how Scolari has given the team an effective playing style in such a short time. As someone who knows him so well, were you expecting this?
It’s very much his style. Perhaps one or two names emerged in the last few months, but other than that I think he has known who would be in the squad for quite a while. He is someone who puts a lot of faith in those who have helped him in the past. When he took the job last year Brazil were at a really low ebb, but the players worked hard for him and managed to win the Confederations Cup, and he was extremely grateful for that. So I knew the majority of last year’s squad would go to the World Cup. Scolari is like that. When he gives an interview you believe what he is saying and he is honest with the fans. I think Brazilians like that. It’s one of the reasons why almost nobody questions him, though of course as Brazil coach he will always be questioned a little. But in general people are behind him and the team. I think that’s one of the most important things he brings to the job.
It is remarkable how Scolari’s teams tend to grow in strength when he has just a few days to prepare them, like at the World Cup. Why do you think this is?
He brings the best of both worlds to the job. When you get to practice, he’ll yell at you. Then he’ll put on a barbecue for everybody and he’ll be messing about and making jokes. He manages to combine professionalism with a more human approach, particularly when he is chatting with the players. They respond well to that. There isn’t that idea of 'he’s the boss over there watching us, he’s unapproachable'. At the same time we don’t abuse the situation, because he’s got a pretty bad temper! (laughs) But he does this very well. He brings a lot of energy to training and he knows how to motivate the players when it’s time to take the field. He’s the perfect trainer for this type of short, seven-game competition. He knows how important it is for the squad to pull together and he treats everyone equally. That might be his most difficult task at the World Cup. To keep the guys together for 50 days without any ego problems arising. That was invaluable in 2002.
How do you rate Brazil’s goalkeepers today? Do you think they're a strong group of players?
I think so, at least from a club perspective. Julio Cesar doesn’t have much competition, at least not from goalkeepers who have a lot of international experience. That's the big advantage he has over the others. He’s used to wearing the Brazil jersey. He’s not going to suddenly feel nervous and under pressure. I’m speaking from experience. There’s a huge difference between being an idol at your club and playing for the national team. The pressure is much greater. It’s not a regional or state competition, it’s international football. And at the World Cup, it’s global! Julio is prepared for this pressure and has experience dealing with it.
In 2002 you had earned Scolari’s trust before the competition, something that probably gave you the edge over two other great goalkeepers who were in top form at the time, Rogerio Ceni and Dida. Why do you think you were chosen?
He made me first choice during the qualifying campaign. When he took the job, I got called up. I said, 'Boss, some of the other guys are in better form than me at the moment.' I think I was picked because he knew me so well. It makes a difference when you spend so much time working with someone. Often you see someone playing for another team and you know he’s good, but you don’t know what type of person he is or how he gets on with the other players. There are lots of things to consider, not just form. So that might have made the difference, the fact that I had worked with him before and he knew me so well. When he became coach Brazil were struggling to qualify. Then once we made it he said to me, 'You’re my first choice. Win or lose, you’ll be my keeper.' I worked really hard not to disappoint him.
Who do you think are the best goalkeepers in the world? What are their strengths?
I really like [Manuel] Neuer. [Petr] Cech won’t be at the World Cup, but he’s a great goalkeeper too. [Iker] Casillas is another, though I think one of the reasons people rate him so highly is because he plays for Real Madrid. Then there is [Gianluigi] Buffon, who is another goalkeeper with very little competition. He has been playing for Italy forever and has no rivals. I can’t believe that Italy don’t have other keepers. But those are the great goalkeepers for me today. At the moment I think Neuer is the best, perhaps because of his age and the team he plays for.