S6 SCORE with theSun JUNE 14, 2018

Unique fans candrive Selecao toglory: Rivaldo

NEYMAR insists five-time champi- ons Brazil are dreaming of winning the World Cup 2018 again as they arrived in Russia. The Paris St Germain forward scored his 55th international goal to go level with Romario and sit joint- third in Brazil’s all-time scoring charts during their 3-0 win over Austria on Sunday. Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho also netted in a comfort- able victory ahead of Brazil’s openingWorld Cup game against Switzerland on Sunday (Mon 2am Malaysian time). “You have to trust, you dream,” he said. “You can talk, you’re Brazilian and you can dream; we’re dreaming more and more. Dream- ing is not forbidden.” Manchester City striker Jesus also insisted Tite’s side are ready for the tournament. “All the games before the World Cup were important to reach this level of performance,” Jesus, who now has 10 international goals, added. “Austria had quality and we knew it would not be easy. We managed to play, involve their team and make another big game. Not only was the attack well, the group went very well.” Neymar:We are ‘dreaming’ of a sixth title

BRAZIL have lifted the most famous trophy in football on five different occasions, and former player Rivaldo believes that the unique pressure the country’s fans place on their star players will drive the squad on in Russia. Since their first title in 1950, Brazil arecurrentlyexperiencingthesecond- longest wait to lift the World Cup. Only the gap between the 1970 and 1994 triumphs is longer than the 16 years since Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Cafu et al claimed the title inYokohama. It might not seem like the most arduous experience for Brazilian supporters, who still had three ConfederationsCups, abraceofCopa Americas and Olympic gold in Rio to toast. But Rivaldo, a star of the runners- up to France in 1998 and the winners four years later, is acutely aware that secondwon’t cut it inRussia. “It’s difficult because of the pressure fromthe fans,” he said. “It has turned into a tradition becauseBrazilareexpectedtowinand the players have to deal with that

pressure. “But sometimes a bit of pressure can motivate the players. Other countriesdonothavethesamelevel of pressure. The pressure is good because it is part of being a player in certain countries football is a part of their culture. “The pressure is difficult but that’s the reason why Brazil have won theWorldCup five times.” However, that pressurebrings no guarantees. “(Brazil) have always been strong and have always qualified for theWorldCup,” Rivaldo said. “Wearealways the favouritesbut I don’t know if we are this one. I hope they performwell and get to the very end andwin the trophy.” The demands placed on the national team are only heightened by the experience of the 2014World Cu p , wh e n Ge rma n y humiliated the host nation in a 7-1 drubbing that will forever scar the nation. Though

many from that side did not make the team, Brazil’s focal point is still 26- year-oldNeymar,. Three months sidelined with a foot injury did not appear to have unduly blunted Neymar on his return to action at Anfield last week as theParis Saint-Germain star scored a goal of typical brilliance in a 2-0 friendly win over Croatia. “IfNeymarplayswellinthe World Cup, Brazil will be odds-on favourites. IfNeymar is100%fititwillmakeiteasier for Brazil towinmatches but thatdoesn’tguaranteethatwe are going to be champions,” Rivaldo said. Should Brazil add that sixth WorldCuptotheirhaulthen the pressure will all havebeenworth it.

Brazil have their swagger back

Brazil had spent 10 days preparing at Tottenham’s training ground and beat Croatia 2-0 in Liverpool

last week before Sunday’s victory.

Selecao cruised to Russia, booking their place with rounds to spare. W HEN Brazil- i a n g o a l - keeper Julio Cesar re- tired, amid all the interviews, he was wise enough to preview the headlines which one day will announce his death... “Keeper from the 7-1 defeat passes away”. There is no escaping it, no getting around it. It was not a bad dream. Brazil really did get

Jesus opened the scoring nine minutes before the break when he curled in from an angle after Marcelo’s shot deflected into his path. Neymar struck just after the hour as

of a club side. His reappointment in 2014 was a statement that nothingwas profoundly wrong, that the 7-1 had just been one of those bad days and that all that was neededwasDunga’s combative spirit and his endless homilies on commitment and discipline. Plenty of bad days followed. After six of the 18 rounds of qualification for Russia, Brazil were sixth, off the pace and in real danger ofmissing out on the World Cup for the first time ever. Brazil’s good fortunewas that an extra, centenary versionof theCopa America was held in the USA in mid-2016. Brazil drew with Ecuador, lost to Peru and were knocked out at the group stage. OutwentDunga, incameTite and things were immediately different – though with most of the same players. Paulinhowas recalled and a raw teenager by the name of Gabriel Jesus was introduced at centre forward. Other than that there were few changes in personnel but huge changes in style and even bigger changes in fortune. Suddenly the qualification campaignbecame a breeze, with 10 wins, two draws, 30 goals scored and three conceded. Brazil cruised to Russia, booking their place with rounds to spare. Whereas Dunga was a perpetually snarling figure, capableof arguingwith themirror if there was no one else handy, Tite brought harmony and amodern idea of play. A captivating communicator with a curious mind, the new coach has little time for the mental isolation of many of his colleagues. Hehas neverworked inEurope – andworries that he might not be able to achieve excellence in a second language – but he has carried out an in-depth study of top-class European football and has applied the concepts to his teams. With Corinthians of Sao Paulo, he won the Brazilian, South American and Club World

titles, beating Chelsea in the 2012 final. That teamwere compact and difficult to play through. After a further periodof study, he then produced a 2015 Brazilian-title winning Corinthians side who were compact in attack, exchanging passes and patiently breaking down the opposition. These same ideas, taken to the national team, have given the individual stars a platform to shine. And with Jesus and Neymar combining, PhilippeCoutinho at last finding his international feet,

he sensationally bamboozled the

Austria defence to score and Coutinho wrapped the victory up minutes later. “The game was important to us. It was the last game of preparation before the

Paulinho ghosting into the area and Marcelo playing the best football of his Brazil career, t he y s hone i n t he

thrashed on home ground in front of a global audience in a World Cup semifinal and the stain on the carpet is not going towash out any time soon. But in comparison with 1950 – the previous timeBrazil staged aWorldCup, when they lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the final – the 2014 experience was probably less painful. Back in 1950, it was taken as a defeat for Brazilian society. In2014 that debatewas takingplaceelsewhere – in the row over the amount of money being spent on stadiums, for example. What happenedon the field againstGermany was nothing more than a crushing defeat for Brazilian football. It is something that can be redeemed on the field by Brazilian football and there are high hopes that coach Tite and his men can do just that in Russia over the next fewweeks. The Brazilian national team have their swagger back. But it took a couple of years to shake off the denial. The outstanding Brazilian coach, Tite, was the popular choice to take over after the 2014 World Cup and so the decision to reappoint Dunga was especially bizarre. The World Cup winning captain in 1994, Dunga had taken charge of the national team between 2006-10. Other than that, his coaching career was limited to anunsuccessful fewmonths in charge

World Cup. We deserved the victory, we played very well,” added Barcelona forward Coutinho. “That gives you confidence. I always try to be prepared to play where the coach needs me and contribute in the best way pos- sible.” Brazil also face Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E in Russia as they look to hit back from their shock 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany on home soil four years ago. Neymar is now level with Romario and only behind Ronaldo (62)

and Pele (77) in Brazil’s all-time record scoring charts. He joked about Austria’s rough ap- proach. “We got ready for the UFC today, but it was good,” he added. “Everyone was

q u a l i f i c a t i o n campaign. Can they now do it inRussia? Can they keep their heads under the pressure of the tournament? Tite’s Brazil may not have the right answers to all these questions, but it should be fun finding out. – Express Newspapers

unharmed.” – The Independ- ent

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