Brazil’s talismanic 22 year-old forward Neymar has bullishly told the gathering press that the time is right for his country to step up and make a success of their hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which gets underway later today.
Ahead of the opening match in Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, Neymar said: “As Mr. Scolari has said, the time has arrived, that all Brazilians and I think the whole world was waiting for.”
“And we the players hope that the last day goes by very quickly. I am anxious, of course. But I’m also extremely happy of being where I am today.”
“So really I hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of us Brazilians, the players, to win the World Cup.”
Brazil versus Croatia kicks off the tournament this evening at 2100GMT (9pm Nigerian time)
Meanwhile, Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has suggested that his 2014 squad are on a par with the Class of 2002, the last time the country won a World Cup.
Scolari, in his second term at the helm of Braziian national football, told reporters at one of the final press conferences before the tournament gets underway: “I would say that this squad and the 2002 squad are collectively the same.”
“There was an ability in that squad which helped to change games tactically.”
“This squad has players that change their games to help the team. For instance, Neymar helps to mark players if it helps the whole team.”
In an emotionally-charged speech on a week where Scolari lost a family member in a car crash, he added: “We want to thank President Dilma Rousseff for her words of support and also the fans from across the country who are backing us.”
“Yes, we have gone through difficult times together, but life goes on. We do what we have to do and we go on. Each of us has a path to follow.”