Having sat on the bench for Brazil's first two FIFA World Cup matches, Gilberto Silva looked one of Brazil's top men on the pitch in their 4-1 win over Japan in their final Group F game on 22 June in Dortmund.
The 30-year-old from Minas Gerais is a tenacious, hard-tackling midfielder whose friendly smile belies his often destructive role on the field of play. FIFAworldcup.com caught up with this veteran of every minute of Brazil's triumph in Korea/Japan and reflected on Brazil's performances so far - and the Seleção's upcoming meeting with Ghana.
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FIFAworldcup.com: It was a wonderful performance against Japan, but Brazil will now face a very difficult opponent in the Round of 16 in Ghana. As the only remaining African side, do you think they will pose a particularly tough test?
Gilberto Silva: Ghana is a very, very tough opponent. We have seen them play already and they are a tremendously powerful team with many different weapons and a lightning-fast attack. This will be a tough game for us and we will need to be prepared to fight for everything in that one. But this is a World Cup, so you have to be ready for the toughest games all the time.
Your good friend Ronaldo has been coming under heavy criticism of late. His two goals against Japan seem to be an answer to his critics. Tell me, did you know he would come good and start scoring again?
Yeah, of course I knew that Ronaldo would get goals - this is what he does (laughs)! We, in the team, have nothing but the utmost faith in him. We trust him completely and we know his worth even though some people might forget it now and then. The whole team and the coach support him and I think it was very, very important for his confidence to get those two goals against Japan. He went out there and did his best, the best that we all know and love him for. His form is very important for our team. It was very nice to see him score again.
You played 18 minutes as a sub against Australia, but against Japan you played from the start. How did that feel?
Well, I'm a footballer so I was delighted to have been out there from the start and I am totally happy with my performance personally and the performance of the team as a whole against Japan. Everyone expects a lot from us, from Brazil, when we go out onto the pitch. Against a tough Japan, even with many changes in the team, we gave a great performance and this is a very good sign looking ahead.
Was the win against Japan the best performance from Brazil so far at these finals?
It might be... yes it might be the best so far. But this is impossible to say. It was a very good performance for sure and an important win for us. It may have been the best so far for us here in Germany, but I think we can improve and get even better and do even better in the next game - and hopefully the game after that (smiles).
Would anything short of bringing the FIFA World Cup back home to Brazil be considered a failure?
Of course. We are Brazil and we are looking forward to playing in the Final. This is what we aim for as a Brazilian national team. We want to get there, it's where we want to be. But Ghana will be no easy win for us and we will not look ahead of them. This is going to be a very, very tough game and this is what we need to focus on right now. We need to work very, very hard to move ahead step by step. This is the only way.