Cafu (52) was in the front row to witness Brazil’s victory against Serbia on Thursday evening (2-0). As one of the five global ambassadors of the Qatari organizing committee for this World Cup (1), he had his place reserved in the presidential stand at the Lusail stadium.
It is for this reason that a round table was organized at the Host Country Media Center (HCMC), this Friday morning. For thirty minutes, the Brazilian record holder of the selections (142 caps and 5 goals, from 1990 to 2006) made the rounds of the news, in the presence of representatives of international media (England, Argentina, South Korea, Spain, France, Japan and India). The discussion with the “Pendolino” necessarily revolved around Neymar’s sprained right ankle.
“Brazil seems less dependent on Neymar now. Would there be a crisis if he were to miss the upcoming matches?
The answer is in the question because Brazil has a large number of influential players. When one of them is less efficient, the others are. That’s why Brazil is such a strong team, because they have this collective power.
Do you think the other players play very physically against him?
I don’t see any aggression. Indeed, some players play in a more physical way. Great players who know how to keep the ball, like Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar, see themselves more exposed to the faults of the current team. But, so far, I haven’t seen any intentional fouls that could have resulted in injury.
“Neymar is able to overturn a match at any time. But we have a lot of other very good players.”
Will Brazil remain the same team without Neymar?
Brazil will be at the same level without him. Just like France is, despite the injury of five of its best players. Neymar is able to overturn a match at any time. But we have a lot of other very good players. So Brazil will continue like this.
Could Vinicius Junior be one of the key players in this World Cup?
He happens to play at Real Madrid, like Rodrygo and Militao. These are three players who have a lot of influence. But we are talking about the Brazilian team here and in my opinion they can help them reach the final.
Cafu, here at the Fifa Fan Festival last Saturday. (M. Darlington/Reuters)
Neymar injured, can Vinicius become the star of the Brazilian team?
The two players are complementary. They can help each other. The Brazilian team has a big reservoir, with good players and therefore, there will be several who can shine during this competition.
Playing it in December and not in summer, does that change a lot of things?
No. It’s different to approach this competition in the middle of the season but for the players it’s a better thing because they are at the top of their form and their physical condition. Who knows, maybe it could pave the way for a new tradition.
Are you surprised by certain results of this World Cup, such as Argentina’s defeat against Saudi Arabia (1-2) or Germany against Japan (2-3)?
It’s normal, because that’s what football is! It’s not an exact science. At no time was it sure and certain that Argentina would beat Saudi Arabia and Germany, Japan. That’s the beauty of football. I found Argentina a little nervous against the Saudis who had a very solid midfield. They knew how to play and they also benefited from success at the finish. However, we must always be wary of Argentina. I’m sure she can pull off a great World Cup. For their part, the Japanese played an almost perfect match and they were able to tip the game and its outcome in their favor. From my point of view as a former player, this is the beauty of this sport.
How do you judge France?
It’s a fantastic team! The French have suffered five injuries but they still have enough good players to play good football and achieve very good results. It really is a very good selection.
What do you think of Cristiano Ronaldo and how do you see the rest of his career?
We are talking about an exceptional athlete. He is not a player like any other. He’s so professional, he works so hard. He does everything to maintain himself at an exceptional level. He is one of the few players to have taken part in five World Cups and the only one to have scored there each time. I don’t want to go back to his situation at the club. I think he still has a great career ahead of him.
Finally, if you had to compare Brazil today with that of 2002?
There is only one possible comparison: the 2002 Seleçao is World Champion. Today’s is about to become one. »
(1) With Australian Tim Cahill, Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o, Spaniard Xavi and Dutchman Ronald de Boer.