Salvador: Brazil’s mesmeric attacking football has long delighted crowds on the world stage but a steely defence more synonymous with the likes of Italy or Germany is the biggest asset of this year’s World Cup hosts, according to Pele.
“For the first time in the history of football in Brazil, we have a defence better than the attack… It’s fantastic, very organised,” the legend, widely regarded as the greatest ever footballer, said.
Brazil, drawn in Group A with Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia, against whom they open the tournament on Thursday in Sao Paulo, boast a host of top defensive players such as Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Ramires, Thiago Silva and Fernandinho.
“This is the first time Brazil has such a good defence, I hope we can adjust in the midfield and forward,” Pele said.
Responsibility for the goals will fall squarely at the talented feet of striker Neymar, the young Barcelona frontman who already boasts some inspirational performances for Brazil and is capable of leading their charge, according to Pele.
“I wish Neymar to be the star of this World Cup,” he said, listing stiff competition from players like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Pele believes that Argentina will be one of Brazil’s main rivals for the title with Chile as the dark horse and Germany and holders Spain the pick of the European teams.
Pele also feels that Brazil avenging their traumatic 1950 World Cup final defeat by beating Uruguay in the final in July would be an ideal result.
The 73-year-old was asked if he would like a Brazil-Argentina final on July 13, at the Maracana, but he said that it would be much more to his taste to play Uruguay and beat them. “I would prefer to have a Brazil vs Uruguay final in order that we could avenge our defeat in 1950,” he said.
The Uruguayans stunned 2,00,000 spectators at the Maracana into silence back in 1950 when a late goal earned them a 2-1 win and that was enough as per the old system for them to be crowned world champions and not Brazil, who went into the match requiring just a draw.
On a different note, Pele said that the importance of what football had done for Brazil’s worldwide reputation could not be underestimated. “I would say to the young that the World Cup is the tournament which allowed people throughout the world to learn about Brazil. I began my World Cup career in 1958 in Sweden when I was 17 years old.” (Agencies)