Colombia defender Pablo Armero has laughed off suggestions that Brazil are vulnerable going into Friday's FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final clash in Fortaleza.
Despite topping Group A and reaching the last eight, the host nation have struggled to live up their billing as tournament favourites, failing to score against Mexico in their second game and only overcoming Chile in the round of 16 on penalties.
Nonetheless, defender Armero does not believe Luis Felipe Scolari's side are struggling, emphasising the quality on display in the tournament and the level of determination in each team.
"Brazil are not weak, it's just that every team here wants to go as far as possible, we've seen that since the start of the World Cup," Armero told reporters. "Every team wants to win and no-one is hiding. Also, they were up against Chile, who have great players."
By contrast, Colombia have exceeded all expectations in their first World Cup since 1998, winning all four of their games and scoring 11 goals. And Armero emphasised that his team would not be content to go home at this stage. "We are working so we can go as far as possible," he said.
"From the first game we knew it wasn't going to be easy, our attitude has been to go step by step. We haven't come here to go for a walk in the park. We've come here to give everything and go for glory."
The game will see a duel between Colombia forward James Rodriguez, who leads the scoring charts in the tournament with five goals, and Brazil's star man Neymar, who has scored four times. Armero admitted his team would be paying special attention to the Barcelona forward, and is confident Colombia can knock the hosts out of the World Cup, as long as they play for each other.
"To nullify Neymar the whole team needs to help each other out in trying to mark him," he said. "We need to stay united and not lose our focus. We are a compact team and we know that when we play together we get results."
Pressure for all
Neymar was very emotional after overcoming Chile on penalties at the last-16 juncture, as were a number of his Selecao team-mates. It has been suggested that was a sign of the nation's expectations getting too much for the players, but Colombia full-back Juan Camilo Zuniga was quick to point out that their opponents are not only ones facing external stress.
"Not only do they have a pressure on them, we also have this kind of pressure," he said. "This is a match we've always dreamed of.
"It will not be easy, it will be complicated against such a huge opponent as Brazil, much more so having them as a home team. But in a very humble way, with coolness, being collected coming into field, we'll do things the best way possible."
Zuniga spoke to the media at the pre-match press conference in Fortaleza alongside coach Jose Pekerman, who was keen to avoid look at past meetings. Colombia have won just two of their previous 25 matches against the Selecao, last beating them in the group stage of the Copa America in 1991.
That said, the four most recent meetings have all ended in draws, while Los Cafeteros are unbeaten in their last 11 matches. "The key is not to think of prior situations," Colombia coach Pekerman said. "The team always tries to look ahead.
"We know for Colombia each match is a new challenge and a new demanding opponent. "We cannot think about the past, both for us and Brazil. In Brazil, you must always believe in its football, its players, so we must do our thing, play our match in keeping with what we've done so far.
"But the key is not to feel that there is a favourite. On the contrary, to take it as we have taken each one of the opponents so far."