Football: Gilberto Silva tips Neymar-led Brazil to impress in Russia World Cup

"Now things are much better with Brazil, the team are more solid and compact. Now they look like a team. With more experience, they will be very sharp next year," Gilberto Silva said.
"Now things are much better with Brazil, the team are more solid and compact. Now they look like a team. With more experience, they will be very sharp next year," Gilberto Silva said.PHOTO: AFP

Having held the midfield and glued the offence and defence of Arsenal and Brazil, Gilberto Silva has a unique knowledge of what makes teams tick and win trophies.

And although he is not ready to say with certainty that the Selecao will win a record-extending sixth world title in Russia next year or if England could finally end a hoodoo since 1966, the Brazilian is sure the good times have returned for his country.

"Now things are much better with Brazil, the team are more solid and compact. Now they look like a team. With more experience, they will be very sharp next year," Gilberto said on the sidelines of a Great Eastern charity event at Pickering Street yesterday.

"It's hard to predict, there's still eight months to the tournament and things can happen.

"The players have to keep doing well for their clubs and hope they will have no injuries.

"The England team still have good players and in the last few World Cups, there was a lot of expectation but they couldn't fulfil the fans' expectations and also of themselves. Russia is another opportunity for them, so let's see how they'll do."

In his midfield role, Gilberto was noted for his tactical discipline. He also had a good scoring rate for a defensive player, his late runs reaping him 17 goals in 170 league games for the Gunners from 2002 to 2008.

The 41-year-old was part of Arsenal's "Invincibles" team, led by record scorer Thierry Henry, that won the 2004 Premier League title without losing a game. He also played alongside Ronaldo to win the 2002 World Cup in Yokohama.

Gilberto believes Neymar will play a starring role in Russia next year and not be crushed by the stress of being the world's most expensive player after his €222 million (S$350 million) move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain .

Gilberto said of the 25-year-old: "A player like Neymar knows how to handle the pressure.

"Although he is still young, he has been playing with this kind of pressure for such a long time since he started in the first team of Santos (aged 17).

"In the national team, we all know what a big player he is as he represents everyone in Brazil.

"And after the move (to PSG) especially, I hope he can handle it (the pressure) well."

Gilberto, who speaks fluent English, is in Singapore with former Arsenal and Liverpool players for tomorrow's Battle of the Masters at the National Stadium.

The ex-Gunners and Reds teams, which include the likes of Robert Pires, Nigel Winterburn, David James and Luis Garcia, will play against a Singapore veterans side featuring Fandi Ahmad and Aleksandar Duric.

And Gilberto is determined to put up a good show under Kallang's domed roof, saying: "The people have been warm to us here.

"I hope we can give the fans good entertainment and the players will enjoy the game."

Wang Meng Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Gilberto tips Neymar-led Brazil to impress in Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe