Thiago Silva insists World Cup favourites Brazil ‘CAN handle the pressure’ to end nation’s heartache and vows to help Neymar ‘play even better’ than before
- Brazil have been named as one of the favourites to win the 2022 World Cup
- Thiago Silva says he and his team-mates can handle the associated pressure
- The defender was Brazil’s captain in 2014 when they hosted the tournament
- He said they are better prepared this time and insists they feel ‘calm’ and at ‘ease’
- The 2022 World Cup could be Neymar’s chance to shine over Ronaldo and Messi
Thiago Silva has walked in this storm before. He was Brazil’s captain in 2014 when they were hosts and unable to hold back tears through the national anthem before they could hold it together no more and collapsed under the pressure.
Silva missed the 7-1 semi-final defeat against Germany. He was banned from the game and heavily criticised for lacking mental strength after collecting a needless yellow card in the quarter-final against Colombia.
He was stripped of the captaincy immediately afterwards, but on Thursday against Serbia, the 38-year-old Chelsea centre half will lead his country into another World Cup with reason to believe this time it will be different.
Thiago Silva can handle the pressure associated with Brazil being favourites for the World Cup
‘I am better prepared, I am calm, I am at ease,’ said Silva and the same can be said of Tite’s Brazil team. They have a settled look. They are unbeaten through qualifying and have their flamboyant talisman, Neymar, going into a World Cup for the first time in good mental and physical shape.
‘Without any injury or worry, we see a better Neymar,’ confirmed Silva. ‘Best of all he is humble. We will make him more at ease. We share our responsibilities as players and help him play even better.
‘Neymar is at a good level for this competition. We need to take advantage of this best Neymar mode.’
It would be the perfect moment for Neymar to stand tall. Lionel Messi started with defeat. Cristiano Ronaldo is beset by the distraction of his Manchester United exit. At 30, this might be the defining time for a Brazilian icon of his generation.
He is assisted by a strong supporting cast in every position — with Richarlison, the focal point at centre forward, and Vinicius Junior, his heir apparent, to share the creative duties.
Neymar could make his mark and stand taller than both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
Neymar suffered badly beneath the burden of expectation in 2014. Under emotional strain, he injured his back as Brazil beat Colombia and, like Silva, was absent from the humiliation at the hands of Germany.
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Highly prized by Tite, who loves his ability to provide a focal point at centre forward, offer physical presence and create spaces for Neymar and Co. His recent form for Brazil has been excellent. Many Brazil fans would rather see Rodrygo in the team but the boss is expected to stick with his man.
Forged a wonderful chemistry with Thiago Silva during their time together at PSG. Thomas Tuchel would gush about his tactical awareness, his defensive instinct and ability to step into midfield when required. Tite will also rely upon these gifts as his team flexes between defence and attack.
Arrives in Qatar looking fresh, physically and mentally. Still the jewel of Tite’s team, although now with more talent packed around him to share the burden. He is in fine form with 18 goals in 23 games for club and country. This might be his World Cup coming of age
Four years later, he missed three months with a broken metatarsal leading into the tournament in Russia and was some distance from top form as Brazil went out in the last eight, beaten by Belgium.
With each failure, the desperation increases for a country synonymous with World Cup glory.
‘We truly believe in everything we’ve done so far,’ said Silva. ‘We kick off this World Cup in a very favourable position.
‘I tell the fans, please believe in us, rest assured because we are ready for a great World Cup.’
As for his personal evolution since 2014, Silva added: ‘There are a few things that change in life over time. Nowadays I am better prepared because sometimes we need to learn the hard way.
‘Sometimes the coach says we need to do it this or that way, but we are the ones who need to learn. I have the trust of all my colleagues and it shows how much I enjoy and respect the responsibility.’
Twenty years have ebbed away since Brazil last won the World Cup and they have giant images of their glorious past plastered across the walls of their training base in Qatar, the Al Arabi Sports Club.
Their five triumphs are writ large alongside a space for 2022. By their own standards, the last four World Cups have gone down as failures but Tite, who will step down after this one, tried to make light of it.
‘I cannot carry the responsibility for those 20 years,’ he said. ‘Only the one four years ago. That’s the only time I was the coach. It is a beautiful history and, of course, brings a degree of pressure.
‘Brazil is a country passionate about football and football is a tool for education. Therefore, we not only have pressure but we will take advantage and use it because dreaming is part of our life.
‘Someone said it’s good to dream and we dream of being the winner. And in case we can’t, we will do our best.’
Neymar suffered badly beneath the burden of expectation in 2014 and injured his back (above)
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