Settling into his seat at the start of his last press conference before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, Luiz Felipe Scolari thanked Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the country’s authorities and the fans before announcing that the hour of truth had finally arrived.
Seated next to him was Neymar, who echoed his coach’s words and said that though he had been feeling a little nervous initially, he could not wait for tomorrow to come and the dream to start. Talkative and relaxed before the press, A Seleção’s star act is ready for the party to get into full swing.
You see him here and you see him in training every day and he just looks so relaxed. It just makes us feel that he’s going to be performing at a very high level.
At least that was the conclusion reached by the Brazilian national team’s technical director, Carlos Alberto Parreira, when he spoke to FIFA.com on the touchline at the impressive Arena de Sao Paulo, the setting for Thursday’s meeting between Brazil and Croatia. A veteran of many a triumphant campaign as a coach, Parreira was impressed by the young forward’s composure in front of the media, an indication of his elevated status in the Brazil side.
“Everyone asks me about Neymar, about how he is, and they say that he’s only 22," said Perreira. "But did you see how he was in there? Does he look apprehensive? Not a bit of it.
“You see him here and you see him in training every day and he just looks so relaxed. You’d never think he was about to take part in the World Cup in Brazil, with the world expecting him to be the best. It just makes us feel that he’s going to be performing at a very high level.”
As far as Parreira and his technical staff are concerned, Neymar’s happy-go-lucky approach is pretty much the norm in the 23-man squad that will shoulder the responsibility of hosting the world’s biggest football tournament in a country that regards itself as the standard-bearers of the game.
Fans' belief inspires Daniel Alves
Speaking to FIFA.com on the eve of the Opening Match, the seasoned Daniel Alves provided further proof that the Brazil players are all on the same wavelength: “I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure, to be honest. The team wants nothing more than to get started on this challenge, and that desire and enthusiasm is greater than any problems we might have. That’s the attitude we’re taking into the World Cup.”
That kind of talk is music to the ears of the men that run A Seleção: “The big difference is that when we started working a year and a half ago, there was some uncertainty in the air,” said Parreira. “What we’ve got now, though, is a confident team that plays a specific type of football, a team that can grow as the tournament progresses and can win the title.”
That specific gameplan involves overwhelming opposing sides right from the kick-off, an approach that has brought results in the past, though it is not Brazil’s only winning formula, as Parreira explained: “A high-tempo pressing game is one way of taking the initiative, but A Seleção has other solutions up its sleeve. Trying to overwhelm teams is just one way of playing, and it’s a good way. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Though the players are holding their heads high, judging by the way they are carrying themselves in their demanding training sessions at their Granja Comary base and the messages they have been getting across when talking to the press, there is no question of them getting overly confident.
“This year we’ve won something a lot more important than a trophy and that’s the renewed confidence that people have in our football,” said Alves. “We’re not getting carried away about it, though, because we’re focused on the next objective, one that’s coming up real soon.”
Whatever happens when Brazil set about achieving that objective, they will not be losing their cool.