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World Cup 2014
 
OUR MAN IN BRAZIL

World Cup 2014: Brazil are back says midfielder Paulinho

After Cameroon rout, midfielder tells ST that hosts can win the big games

Published on Jun 25, 2014 4:48 PM
 
Brazil's players celebrating the 4-1 defeat of Cameroon on Monday. Neymar's two goals underpinned the win, ensuring that the host nation would finish on top of Group A -- PHOTO: REUTERS . PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BRAZIL are back to the form that saw them conquer the best sides in the world, says Paulinho.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, who has started every match of their World Cup Finals campaign so far, told The Straits Times on Monday: "Yeah, it's very important for us, because we work this time for the big win."

He was speaking after his team, who had been unconvincing thus far, strolled to a 4-1 win over Cameroon, a result that sealed top spot in Group A and booked them a date with Chile in the last 16.

"Now we go to next game with more confidence. And that's why it's important for us," Paulinho, a key member of the team that saw off the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Italy to win last year's Confederations Cup, added.

"I think that Brazil today, we played well, we played like (the) Confederations Cup. That's why we need this, play like that and win the big games."

Although seven goals from three matches, with only two conceded, is not a bad group-stage record, the hosts and one of the favourites to win the World Cup have struggled to find the consistency of title contenders.

They had to come back from a goal down in their opening match against Croatia before winning 3-1 and failed to find the net against Mexico, settling for a 0-0 draw.

Against Cameroon, they were made to work hard against a side who were already eliminated.

Joel Matip pulled Cameroon level after a smart Neymar finish and the Africans came close to claiming a shock lead on a few occasions. But a brilliant solo goal by Neymar, in which he danced past three defenders to fire home, and strikes from Fred and Fernandinho helped them to the somewhat flattering result.

It is no wonder Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has demanded the team cut out mistakes - which a strong Chile will punish.

"We are almost at the ideal level and it is important to be at that level going into the knockout rounds," said Scolari, 65, who is hoping to lead Brazil to World Cup glory as he did in 2002.

"Now we need to commit fewer mistakes. In the group stage, you can get away with slipping up once as long as you win your other two matches. Now you can't afford to, because one goal can decide a match."

He wants his team to be a bit more patient and calmer on the ball. At times his defence, especially David Luiz and Dani Alves, lacked cohesion and opened up gaps which Cameroon found but failed to take advantage of. Scolari has until Saturday to iron out the chinks in Brazil's game.

But he can at least be happy that the swagger, the confidence and camaraderie are back.

In the bowels of the Estadio Nacional on Monday, with cheers from the capacity crowd of 69,112 - the biggest yet to watch Brazil at the World Cup - reverberating throughout the magnificent arena, the football Brazil played at times was just astounding.

The flowing football, the one-touch passing, the confidence to take on and beat one, two players, the flicks and tricks, they were all on display in front of an appreciative crowd in Brasilia.

Unlike Rio or Sao Paulo, the Brazilian capital is not a hotbed for football. Its teams play in the lower division in the Brazilian national league. None of these clubs are likely to fill the Estadio Nacional, leading many to speculate that the stadium will become a white elephant after the Cup.

But, even as a small group gathered near the Terre de TV - Brasilia's iconic TV tower - to protest the staging of the record US$11 billion (S$13 billion) World Cup while social needs are being ignored, the public were overwhelmingly in a celebratory mood.

Fans gathered outside the stadium hours before the match - the only one the hosts will play in this city during this Cup - to soak in the atmosphere as samba groups led the way in song and dance.

Inside, the sea of Brazilian yellow-and-green shirts, juxtaposed against the red seats of the arena, made for a majestic sight.

On the pitch, the Selecao, led by Neymar, rewarded the appreciative crowd with their best attacking performance yet.

He was especially in the mood, flicking the ball over the head of a Cameroon defender on one occasion, then outrageously backheeling the ball to a team-mate and then swivelling around his marker, all in one quick movement.

Brazilian fan Rodrigo Moraes Abreu, who, with his wife Bertha, were lucky enough to get tickets to the match, said: "It's showtime today, isn't it? They were just amazing, wonderful."

The feel-good atmosphere was not confined to the terraces.

Brazil midfielder Fernandinho said: "The difference today wasn't the result itself, but the way the team played. We brought some of the same spirit we had during the Confederations Cup; it's a change of attitude that led us to a good result."

With the knock-out stages up next, fervent home support could prove crucial in matches. As on Monday, the team seem to feed off the energy of the fans as the supporters respond to the positive football on the field.

Dismissing talk that Brazilians are still concerned about the high price tag of the Cup and not fully behind the team, Paulinho said: "The people of Brazil you see today helped us, helped the players... It's very important that the people are happy."

marclim@sph.com.sg


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Background story

ALL-IMPORTANT APPROACH

We played like (the) Confederations Cup. That's why we need this, play like that and win the big games."

- Paulinho, Brazil midfielder

BRAZIL HOLD NO FEAR

That's our dream. Chile can create a surprise. We've beaten the world champions, so we can beat Brazil.

- Arturo Vidal, Chile midfielder

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