Football

Neymar: Brazil ready to face anyone in Russia

Brazilian star believes team have regained respect of the world since the 2014 World Cup humiliation

For Brazilian football fans, the images from the 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany while hosting the World Cup in 2014 continue to haunt them.

But Neymar believes that the team have bounced back from that humiliation and are now back to their more familiar role as the team to beat.

Ahead of today's World Cup draw in Russia, the Brazilian superstar told Fifa.com: "The respect towards the team now is different to what it was three years ago after the World Cup. People see us differently.

"The Brazil that everyone respects and admires is back; a team that enjoys good football. And that makes us happy.

"The mood of our fans and our country has changed. Everyone's confident and happy looking ahead to the World Cup. You can't put a price on that."

It's not surprising Neymar and his teammates are brimming with confidence ahead of the World Cup draw.

The Selecao were the first team to qualify for next year's showpiece, wrapping up South American qualifying as runaway leaders with 10 points more than second-placed Uruguay.

They have a fiery attack, a solid defence and in Tite a coach who in a short time has managed to lift the team from their meltdown and restore the faith of desperate fans.

When he took over in June 2016, Tite inherited a team that may have a history of five world championships, but under his predecessor Dunga had slipped to sixth in the regional qualification.

But under Tite's guidance, the team turned around, rediscovering their beautiful game and getting the individual stars to work more as part of the collective.

Of the 12 remaining qualification matches, Brazil won 10 and drew two, scoring 30 goals and conceding just three.

Neymar said that the team are ready to take on any team, no matter who their opponents are in Russia.

Asked if there are any teams they would wish to avoid, he said: "No. Brazil are ready to face anyone. We train so that we're not afraid of anyone we might go up against.

"It's a World Cup, so the best teams are there. They're well-prepared sides with tremendous quality. You can't pick one team over another, thinking that they'll be weaker.

"You just have to be ready when you go to a World Cup."

ON SONG

Neymar's excellent form during the qualification campaign did not go unnoticed, too.

Coach Tite said that the trick to getting the best out of his star player is to reduce the team's reliance on him, a criticism that stuck with Brazil throughout their 2014 World Cup campaign.

Tite told Fifa.com: "(I've got the best from Neymar) by not making him fully responsible for the situation and by not putting him at loggerheads with responsibility either.

"I spoke to the players and allocated an area of responsibility to each of them. When you have one of the top three players in the world, it's very easy just to leave the responsibility up to them.

"The fact is, though, each of us are all responsible to some extent for what happens. And that's where the individual side of things and creative talent come in. I've made this an essential part of teamwork. I haven't left it to one individual."

Come next year, Neymar is confident that Brazil will give a good account of themselves in front of the global audience.

And whatever happens, luck will have nothing to do with their performance.

On how big a role luck will play, he said: "Luck? Very little. I don't think luck itself can help a team win it.

"The eventual champions are the ones that put in the hard work a long time beforehand, and are ready to face anyone in their group or in the knockout rounds." - WIRE SERVICES

Football