Brazil will be in trouble in Friday's FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final against Colombia if they afford the outstanding James Rodriguez any space in which to perform, midfielder Fernandinho warned on Monday.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has been arguably the player of the World Cup so far, scoring five goals in Colombia's four matches, including a magnificent volley in the 2-0 defeat of Uruguay in the last 16.
And Fernandinho said that he could see that Rodriguez would develop into a star when they came up against each other in a UEFA Champions League match between Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto in September 2011. "I played against him in the Champions League. It was at the start of his time in Europe and he wasn't yet a first-choice" for Porto, said Fernandinho.
"Already in that game he showed his technical quality with his left foot. In this World Cup he is showing everyone that the money Monaco paid for him was well invested. The less space he gets against us, the better it will be for Brazil."
Despite that, Fernandinho said there will be no question of Brazil looking to man-mark Rodriguez, who moved to Monaco from Porto for €45 million ($61.6m) last year. "Wherever I have played, man-marking does not exist anymore. It needs to be done zonally," said the Manchester City midfielder.
Pressure on hosts
Meanwhile, Brazil must also prepare to cope with the kind of pressure they faced in Saturday's dramatic last-16 victory against Chile in Belo Horizonte. On that occasion, goalkeeper Julio Cesar was in tears before the penalty shoot-out, which Brazil won 3-2, while Neymar was among those who broke down at the end of the match.
Captain Thiago Silva was also seen crying at the end of the match, and has since been criticised in the Brazilian press for supposedly not leading by example. Carlos Alberto, the skipper of the great Brazil side that won the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, told sports daily Lance: "He should have been in the middle of the pitch shouting. He is the captain."
However, Fernandinho shrugged aside suggestions that this Brazil team are not mentally strong enough to win the title on home soil. "We have been preparing ever since we first got together on May 26. We have worked on the psychological side and there is no need to do any of that now. What matters now is to show what we can do on the pitch," he said.
"This is my opinion. We have a very big responsibility representing a country of 200 million people who hope for happiness and better days through football." He added: "We still kept our concentration at the decisive moment when it came to penalties."