The good moment of Neymar and the solidity of Tite’s ‘Seleção’ make the legendary ex-lateral Cafu, 52, dream of Brazil breaking the European domination of the last four World Cups in Qatar.
In an interview with AFP on the eve of the World Cup (November 20-December 18), the last Brazilian captain to lift the top soccer trophy, at South Korea and Japan 2002, bets his chips on the six-time championship of the ‘scratch’, but also warns about Lionel Messi’s “favorite” Argentina.
It’s been two decades since Brazil won the World Cup. Can Qatar bury that drought?
Answer: “Qatar is a great opportunity to break European domination. It is the right time for the Brazilian team to break that taboo and win the title. Both Argentina and the ‘Seleção’ are huge favourites. Brazil is coming off a very good season, in As for their games. Argentina has a very good team as well. I see two teams with great potential to win the World Cup”.
What do you like about the Tite team?
“The team. Today we have a very strong mix of players who can solve the game at any time. The strong point is the unity they have on the field, they know that they don’t depend solely on one player to win the World Cup, and that goes to help”.
– Neymar “makes the difference” –
Does Neymar’s good level increase the chances of winning the six-time championship?
“With Neymar doing well, we have a great chance of winning the World Cup, because he is a player who really makes a difference on the pitch. We put our hopes in what he can do, but he doesn’t play alone. Playing well, being motivated, I have the certainty that he will captivate other players and make them feel important so that they can win the World Cup”.
Danilo seems fixed as a right back. The unknown is who will fight for the position. What do you think of a central player like Éder Militão fulfilling that role?
“If Daniel Alves was at the level he was before, he would be in the national team for sure. But I really like the idea of using a defender as a winger, even because Militão has already played on the wing. He won’t have any problems. Depending on the game situation, Tite can drop it on the attack or make a line of three”.
Qatar will be the last multi-star World Cup. Are young players, like Vinicius Jr or Kylian Mbappé, up to the standards of those who retire?
“It’s a shame to see those cracs retiring, but it’s the natural law of football. You have to know when to stop. They can reach that level, but at the moment they are not at the level of those great champions like Neymar or Messi, Lewandowski and Cristiano, who were the best in the world”.
What selections can surprise?
“Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Serbia, as incredible as it may seem. Serbia (who shares a group with Brazil) qualified first in their group. They have played very well, they have a strong team and they play football, they are not afraid of any opponent.
France is going to arrive very strong, as in the last Cup. She will arrive with the title stamped on her shirt and will fight to be a two-time champion. It will be one of the great teams to be beaten.”
– Memories of the two-time champion –
What do you remember of the ‘Seleção’ of 2002?
“For me it was the best Brazilian team in recent times. A winning team: seven games, seven wins; best attack, best defense. All breaking all kinds of records and playing beautiful football.
Being world champion over Germany is a memory that remains for life. And to have the opportunity to lift the Cup as captain, too. It’s wonderful to have the Cup in your hand, that feeling of being champions, of duty accomplished. If I could, I would be champion all day, because it’s a great feeling.”
Many question the football of Brazil champion in the United States-1994. What does it tell them?
“Only those who are not champions criticize. How can you criticize a world champion? Not everyone is. Brazil is a five-time champion because someone was a four-time champion in 1994.”
You won two World Cups and lost the final in France-1998. Does that defeat weigh you down?
“You learn from that bad feeling. I don’t carry the weight of being runner-up, on the contrary: we were runners-up, we reached the final of a competition as important as the World Cup. That has to be valued”.
Brazil came to the 2002 World Cup being highly questioned. For Qatar, he is a favourite. What is better?
“It’s always good to arrive as the favorite, it’s a great motivation. People respect you, they highlight your work, they know that at any moment, if they hesitate, they lose the game.”
Brazilians have moved away from the ‘scratch’ in recent years, why?
“Because of the fact that Brazil hasn’t won the title for twenty years. That affects the ‘crooked’ a bit and takes away a bit of credibility from the team. But I think this one is back.”