Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has issued a passionate rallying cry on the eve of his team's FIFA World Cup™ opener, telling an expectant nation: "This is our World Cup."
Scolari's words at a packed press conference in Sao Paulo were backed by Brazilian forward Neymar, tipped by many to be the star of the event as excitement in the South American nation builds to fever pitch. "To all Brazilians I want to tell you the time has arrived. This is our World Cup," said the coach, who was at the helm the last time the five-time champions won the tournament, in 2002.
Scolari, whose team take on Croatia on Thursday at the new Corinthians Arena, vowed however to take each game at a time. "There are seven steps," he said. "We have to go up those seven steps but to start we have to think of the first step. We can't jump the seven steps. The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."
Barcelona star Neymar, the focus of so much attention in the build-up to the tournament, said the "time has arrived" that all Brazilians and the whole world have been waiting for.
"We hope that this last day goes by very quickly. I am anxious of course but also I'm extremely happy being where I am today because many people would like to be here," he said. "I really hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of the players, and Brazilians, which is to win the World Cup."
Scolari has the luxury of being able to field the same team that destroyed world champions Spain 3-0 in the final of last year's Confederations Cup, with Neymar the focal point of a powerful and settled line-up. He said he felt his 2014 squad had the same commitment to hard work as the side that won the 2002 World Cup, featuring the likes Ronaldo and Rivaldo.