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    Brazil

    Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Wednesday unveiled the 23 men he trusts can deliver a sixth FIFA World Cupô ahead of this year's event starting 12 June on home soil. Having already led the most successful nation in the tournament's history to their fifth title at Korea/Japan 2002, Scolari is now out to lay the ghosts of 1950, when A SeleÁ„o lost the trophy match to Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro.

    His list contained no major surprises, although AC Milan forward Robinho missed the cut along with former FIFA Ballon d'Or winners Ronaldinho and Kaka, an echo of his decision to dump Romario more than a decade ago. Robinho missed the cut despite facing Chile in a recent friendly. With Scolari having said for months he knew in his own mind who he wanted to pick, save for one or two exceptions, the focus was on who would provide back-up for a first XI who saw off world champions Spain in last year's FIFA Confederations Cup warm-up.

    For the defensive second string, Paris Saint-Germain's Maxwell edged out Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis, while veteran defender Maicon won out at the expense of Bayern Munich's Rafinha, even though the latter had played in a March friendly romp against South Africa. Henrique of Napoli, fresh from lifting the Coppa Italia, also claimed a spot in the middle, and Scolari completed his contingent with Manchester City's Fernandinho and Inter Milan's Hernanes.

    Scolari had already named as his four captains defensive linchpins Tiago Silva and David Luiz, veteran striker Fred of Fluminense and goalkeeper Julio Cesar, despite Cesar now playing in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC. In 2002, Scolari preferred a 3-4-3 line up with Ronaldo at its apex. But now he and technical coordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira will likely base their hopes on a 4-2-3-1 permutation with the idea that star man Neymar of Barcelona can enjoy a free role.

    Just four of the players are with Brazilian clubs - reserve keepers Jefferson and Victor and strikers Fred and Jo, the latter who had brief spells in England with Manchester City and Everton. Scolari could have named 30 players before later trimming them back by 2 June. But the Brazilian Football Confederation had indicated ahead of Wednesday he was happy to name his final squad now in readiness for group games against Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

    Scolari will now welcome his selection at the end of May to the refurbished Granja Comary training complex outside the rural town of Teresopolis. He will then oversee a 3 June friendly against Panama at Goiana and a final warm-up against Serbia three days later at the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo before the Cup starts at the Corinthians Arena on 12 July.

    Brazil squad

    Goalkeepers:
    Julio Cesar (Toronto FC/CAN), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro)

    Defenders: Dante (Bayern Munich/GER), David Luiz (Chelsea/ENG), Henrique (Napoli/ITA), Thiago Silva (PSG), Daniel Alves (Barcelona/ESP), Maicon (Roma/ITA), Marcelo (Real Madrid/ESP), Maxwell (Paris St Germain/FRA)

    Midfielders: Fernandinho (Manchester City/ENG), Hernanes (Inter Milan/ITA), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg/GER), Oscar (Chelsea/ENG), Paulinho (Tottenham/ENG), Ramires (Chelsea/ENG), Willian (Chelsea/ENG)

    Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR), Fred (Fluminense), Hulk (Zenit Saint-Petersburg/RUS), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Neymar (Barcelona/ESP)


    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Exhausted Silva to miss final PSG games

    Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain skipper Thiago Silva is "physically and mentally exhausted" and set to miss the final two games of the French Ligue 1 season for the French champions, coach Laurent Blanc said on Friday.

    "Thiago Silva will not play (against Lille)," Blanc said, adding that the centre back could also miss the final match against Montpellier.

    "As the goals have been achieved he wants to heal himself, it's understandable," said Blanc, adding that Silva had often played "in pain this season".

    Blanc added that after helping PSG to a second straight Ligue 1 title on Wednesday Silva was now focusing on "Brazil who have a chance of winning the World Cup".

    PSG have two games left this season with the sole motivation of beating the Ligue 1 points record of 84 held by Lyon. They currently have 83 points.

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    Marcos: Scolari combines working and joking

    Ronaldo may have monopolised the headlines, but Marcos indubitably performed a decisive function in Brazilís conquering of a fifth FIFA World Cupô. The goalkeeper, indeed, conceded just one goal in the entire knockout phase as Luiz Felipe Scolariís men strode to glory at Korea/Japan 2002.

    As Brazil prepare to go for number six, FIFA.com caught up with the now-retired 40-year-old to discuss their chances, Scolariís unique personality and coaching, his countryís current keepers and the best in the world, and the SeleÁ„o supporters.

    FIFA.com: What are your expectations for this World Cup? Do you think Brazil are one of the favourites and who are their main rivals for the title?
    Marcos: I think itís going to be a big, beautiful party, just like every World Cup. Brazil are one of the favourites, mainly because weíre playing at home. We know what a difference that can make. The presence of the fans will be massively important for the team, and they can help to really put the opposition under pressure. Brazil are one of the main contenders to win the trophy, along with Argentina, Germany and Spain. I think weíll have a slight advantage because weíre playing at home and will have our fans behind us.

    Do you think support for Brazil will grow in the coming days?
    I think so. That was how it was during the Confederations Cup. The atmosphere inside the stadiums during the singing of the national anthem really lifted the team, and I hope itís the same at the World Cup. Brazilians tend to take a while to get into the party mood. But things are starting to heat up. There is the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, Scolari has announced his final squad, and soon all the great players and teams will start to arrive. It wonít be long until the Brazilian people get into the World Cup spirit.

    Many people are surprised how Scolari has given the team an effective playing style in such a short time. As someone who knows him so well, were you expecting this?
    Itís very much his style. Perhaps one or two names emerged in the last few months, but other than that I think he has known who would be in the squad for quite a while. He is someone who puts a lot of faith in those who have helped him in the past. When he took the job last year Brazil were at a really low ebb, but the players worked hard for him and managed to win the Confederations Cup, and he was extremely grateful for that. So I knew the majority of last yearís squad would go to the World Cup. Scolari is like that. When he gives an interview you believe what he is saying and he is honest with the fans. I think Brazilians like that. Itís one of the reasons why almost nobody questions him, though of course as Brazil coach he will always be questioned a little. But in general people are behind him and the team. I think thatís one of the most important things he brings to the job.

    It is remarkable how Scolariís teams tend to grow in strength when he has just a few days to prepare them, like at the World Cup. Why do you think this is?
    He brings the best of both worlds to the job. When you get to practice, heíll yell at you. Then heíll put on a barbecue for everybody and heíll be messing about and making jokes. He manages to combine professionalism with a more human approach, particularly when he is chatting with the players. They respond well to that. There isnít that idea of 'heís the boss over there watching us, heís unapproachable'. At the same time we donít abuse the situation, because heís got a pretty bad temper! (laughs) But he does this very well. He brings a lot of energy to training and he knows how to motivate the players when itís time to take the field. Heís the perfect trainer for this type of short, seven-game competition. He knows how important it is for the squad to pull together and he treats everyone equally. That might be his most difficult task at the World Cup. To keep the guys together for 50 days without any ego problems arising. That was invaluable in 2002.

    How do you rate Brazilís goalkeepers today? Do you think they're a strong group of players?
    I think so, at least from a club perspective. Julio Cesar doesnít have much competition, at least not from goalkeepers who have a lot of international experience. That's the big advantage he has over the others. Heís used to wearing the Brazil jersey. Heís not going to suddenly feel nervous and under pressure. Iím speaking from experience. Thereís a huge difference between being an idol at your club and playing for the national team. The pressure is much greater. Itís not a regional or state competition, itís international football. And at the World Cup, itís global! Julio is prepared for this pressure and has experience dealing with it.

    In 2002 you had earned Scolariís trust before the competition, something that probably gave you the edge over two other great goalkeepers who were in top form at the time, Rogerio Ceni and Dida. Why do you think you were chosen?
    He made me first choice during the qualifying campaign. When he took the job, I got called up. I said, 'Boss, some of the other guys are in better form than me at the moment.' I think I was picked because he knew me so well. It makes a difference when you spend so much time working with someone. Often you see someone playing for another team and you know heís good, but you donít know what type of person he is or how he gets on with the other players. There are lots of things to consider, not just form. So that might have made the difference, the fact that I had worked with him before and he knew me so well. When he became coach Brazil were struggling to qualify. Then once we made it he said to me, 'Youíre my first choice. Win or lose, youíll be my keeper.' I worked really hard not to disappoint him.

    Who do you think are the best goalkeepers in the world? What are their strengths?
    I really like [Manuel] Neuer. [Petr] Cech wonít be at the World Cup, but heís a great goalkeeper too. [Iker] Casillas is another, though I think one of the reasons people rate him so highly is because he plays for Real Madrid. Then there is [Gianluigi] Buffon, who is another goalkeeper with very little competition. He has been playing for Italy forever and has no rivals. I canít believe that Italy donít have other keepers. But those are the great goalkeepers for me today. At the moment I think Neuer is the best, perhaps because of his age and the team he plays for.

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    Cesar: I will reward Scolari's faith

    Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar insisted Tuesday he will silence any doubters who believe coach Luiz Felipe Scolari should consider looking beyond him as the FIFA World Cupô hosts target a sixth triumph.

    "I come in with my suitability in the position questioned, but happy and 100 per cent ready," the 34-year-old said as he settled into Brazil's tournament headquarters at Granja Comary an hour outside of Rio de Janeiro. The former Inter Milan shot-stopper has been in the limelight with Scolari insisting throughout the build up to the competition that he will definitely be first choice between the sticks.

    But Cesar in January had to resort to resurrecting his club career in the unlikely surroundings of Toronto after months spent in the wilderness following relegation from the English Premier League with Queens Park Rangers. A veteran of two previous World Cups, Cesar has Scolari's unwavering public support as well as a winners medal from last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, where he was designated best keeper.

    After rumored moves to Arsenal, Napoli, Fiorentina or a move back home to Brazil failed to materialise Cesar stayed at QPR - albeit on the sidelines, before Major League side Toronto FC came calling.

    "People said I was going to play in a Mickey Mouse league," Cesar said. "But I can say that the US league in the past few years has passed that of Brazil in terms of attendance - for my first game we had 45,000 people in the stadium. The US league is enjoying huge growth. I conceded nine goals (in seven games) so that was very annoying."

    Four years ago, he was singled out for criticism as Brazil exited the World Cup in South Africa following a quarter-final loss to the Netherlands, after being caught out for the Dutch opener. Cesar, relishing the build-up to Brazil's curtain-raiser with Croatia in Sao Paulo on 12 June, insisted that he has put that behind him.

    "I come in (to this year's World Cup) better than in 2010, better focused, better prepared," he explained, suggesting that had Scolari not returned to the helm some 18 months ago his international career might have been over.

    "After all that happened to me at Inter, at Queens Park Rangers, I never stopped plugging away. It was the confidence I felt from the coaching staff which ensured that I am here today. Had another coaching team been in charge of the SeleÁ„o I don't know if I'd be here."

    Botafogo keeper Jefferson is first reserve but has yet to win a competitive cap, such is Scolari's faith in his first choice.

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    Brazil begin training at base camp

    Brazil's FIFA World Cupô hopefuls began training in cool and rainy conditions Wednesday at their base camp in the hills outside Rio de Janeiro. If the squad had been hoping for balmy conditions at their Granja Comary complex in the town of Teresopolis they would have suffered a rude awakening, with the thermometer showing just 17 Celsius as they trotted onto a chilly pitch.

    Under the watchful gaze of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, the 23-man squad began their session shortly after 10.00 after some indoor warm-ups - the three goalkeepers following the programme in reverse. Chelsea midfielder Oscar, coming off a hip injury, and striker Jo, likewise shaking off fitness problems as he looks to play second fiddle to main striker Fred, both joined the group from the outset for an hour-long session.

    The bulk of the squad, most of whom play in Europe, had arrived on Monday. Tuesday they underwent a series of fitness tests, preparing to hit tip-top shape for their 12 June Opening Match against Croatia in Sao Paulo. Before then the team will play two friendlies - against Panama on 3 June in Goiania and Serbia three days later in the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo.

    The Croatian game will be played in the Corinthians Arena before A SeleÁ„o meet Mexico and Cameroon to complete their Group A fixtures.

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    Hulk: Scolari maintains Brazil's unity

    In a lengthy interview with FIFA.com back in October 2012, Hulk shed light on how he was perceived by Brazilian fans at the time, with the attacker only gaining wider recognition back home once becoming a Brazil regular.

    ďIf they didnít know my game, sometimes they saw my physique and got the wrong idea, thinking I must be a blood-and-thunder kind of player," he said. "But to be honest Iíve never really been like that: Iím one of those players who likes to get on the ball and take people on. Iíve always had a hard shot, though, ever since I was little.Ē

    Indeed, the fact he has played out virtually his entire career on foreign shores had undermined his relationship with followers of A SeleÁ„o. Difficult as it is to believe after his integral role in Brazilís triumph at last yearís FIFA Confederations Cup, Hulkís place in the team had previously the source of fierce debate in his homeland. Not that such debate swayed the judgement of Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had complete trust in the wide-forwardís technical brilliance and tactical discipline.

    Felip„oís faith was amply repaid by the Paraiba state native, whose fine performances for A Verde e Amarelo have also been reproduced at club level for Zenit St. Petersburg, where in 2013/14 he finished as the Russian top flightís second-leading scorer and won the division's best player award. A near-certain starter for the hosts at the imminent 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazilô, Hulk made time for a chat with FIFA.com shortly before joining up with his Canarinho squad-mates at their training base in Teresopolis.

    FIFA.com: Have you noticed how perceptions of you back in Brazil have changed? You had your doubters but youíre now an undisputed starter for a SeleÁ„o side expected to do big things at this World Cup.
    Hulk: Yes, but itís only normal as not many people [in Brazil] knew about me. Most fans there began to get to know me through seeing me for A SeleÁ„o: at the Olympic Games in 2012 and then the Confederations Cup [in 2013]. So, I can see how thereís now a greater level of recognition for my game, which is something that makes me very happy.

    All of which has coincided with you appearing more and more at home in Russian club football, isnít that right?
    No doubt about it. Thatís something else Iím pleased about: having had a good season with Zenit. The only thing missing was taking the league title, because we dropped some silly points which ended up costing us (Zenit finished second, a point behind CSKA Moscow), but for me on an individual level, things went excellently. I scored plenty of goals (17 in 24 league matches) and thereís no question Iím adapting to the Russian game.

    You mention your goal-scoring, but a major factor in your favour with A Verde e Amarelo is your ability to quickly get back and help the team recover its defensive shape.
    Thatís right. Felip„o spent a lot of time in European football (as coach of Portugal and briefly Chelsea) and places a lot of emphasis on forwards getting back and defending too, an idea which is much more common in Europe than in Brazil, for example. With the national side, even Fred, whoís our central striker, gets back to defend. Iím totally used to that since my time at FC Porto and I think itís worked well: whenever we donít have the ball, we all defend.

    That means you and the right-back - in this case Daniel Alves - must play closer together and be more dependent on each other, right?
    For someone like me, who tends to play wide, it can be even better playing alongside an attacking full-back like Daniel Ė like both Brazilís full-backs, in fact. Thatís because it gives opposing defenders more to worry about and, as a result, ends up creating more space. That said, of course, when the opposition have the ball we have to make sure we coordinate well so that our flank is always well covered. Itís a genuine partnership.

    Everyone involved in the squad that won Brazil 2013 talks very fondly of the atmosphere in the camp. How did that come about?
    This group of lads is brilliant. The SeleÁ„o squad have always been a great bunch, ever since I was first called up, but we needed to go through a decisive period, really show our strength and, by doing that, form a closed, tight-knit group Ė which was what happened at the Confederations Cup. And Felip„o has been able to keep things that way. There havenít been many changes made since then and we all still get on really well: thereís never any trouble.

    How does Scolari go about maintaining that spirit of togetherness?
    Itís not so much about what he says, I thinks itís more down to the way he is. He welcomes the players in such a way that it makes everybody feel right at home and know whatís expected of them, be they experienced players or new arrivals. For example, he asks us all to come down for lunch and dinner at the same time, and that we all stay until everyoneís finished. That ends up becoming a habit and it does a lot of good. Theyíre just day-to-day things, but theyíre vital in helping everyone bond within the squad. Felip„o, better than anyone else, knows how to strengthen that sense of unity.

    Youíve played against many of the players that will be lining up for Brazilís Group A rivals Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. What kind of encounters are you expecting?
    First and foremost, theyíre all very difficult games. Not just because theyíre great teams with very good players, but also because as theyíll be facing Brazil at home, theyíre likely to play quite defensively. So, when gaps do open up, weíre going to have to take full advantage. That was the case at the Confederations Cup, when we were almost always able to grab an early goal Ė which proved incredibly important. It helped us forge our identity even further: that of us pressing opponents high up the pitch right from the start of games.

    Finally, which are, in your view, the strongest teams at this World Cup?
    At a World Cup itís hard to look much further than the traditional big-name teams: history backs that up. Therefore, of course, you have Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, ArgentinaÖ all of whom are great teams and usually do well. But, aside from the usual suspects, I think that Uruguay and Belgium are both capable of springing a surprise.

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    Scolari tells his side to sharpen up

    Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Monday urged his troops to sharpen up a day before their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazilô warm-up with Panama.

    Scolari blasted his side after a Sunday training session which he said he "didn't like at all" owing to poor marking and perceived sloppiness. And with only ten days to go to their opening World Cup match against Croatia in Sao Paulo, the man who led the Selecao to glory in 2002 insisted it was time to crack the whip

    Sunday, "the marking was sloppy, we left spaces in the middle of the park and took up questionable positions," Scolari observed. "We cannot let our attitude slip a week before the Cup. We cannot lose the identity which we forged at the Confederations Cup," the dress rehearsal his side won almost 12 months ago.

    Tuesday's test at the Serra Dourada stadium in Goiania, some 200 km from the capital Brasilia, is the penultimate chance for Scolari to look at options in reserve. Friday against Serbia in Sao Paulo is his side's final friendly outing before the real thing starts with the Croatians in a Group A also comprising Mexico and Cameroon.

    Scolari, calling for more inventive subtlety and tactical nous from his charges, said the players know full well what he demands and expects. "I urged them what I always do - to be serious and play each match as if it were the last."

    Scolari can make up to six substitutions in the game against Panama and said he would use the chance to run the rule over the options at his disposal. Even so, against Croatia he will essentially keep faith with the players who saw off Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup final.

    Scolari, who said he would have liked a few more days to prepare for the 12 June opener at Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena, said Panama were not to be underestimated. "They are a good side - we have been following their work. We have to take the game seriously and see how we are coming along."

    Scolari stressed no side in Brazil's group would be easy to beat - noting Cameroon are coming off a friendly draw with Germany, no less. Some 20,000 fans were on hand to see Brazil train under Scolari's watchful gaze and jostle to catch a glimpse of the likes of Neymar.

    Resting skipper Thiago Silva, plus midfielders Paulinho and Fernandinho, Scolari is set to give Ramires a start ahead of Hernanes and Dante. Hulk is also set to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, completing, along with Oscar and Neymar, a trident supporting spearhead Fred.

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    Four-star Brazil stroll past Panama

    FIFA World Cupô hosts Brazil strolled to a 4-0 win over Panama in their penultimate warm-up on Tuesday, goals from Neymar, Daniel Alves, Hulk and Willian securing the victory margin.

    After a tentative opening, the Selecao easily saw off limited opponents as Neymar, with his 31st international goal, set the ball rolling, rifling in a free-kick for the opener on the half hour. Alves drove in the second five minutes before the interval and a cheeky Neymar backheel was enough to pave the way for Hulk to dispatch the third early in the second period before Willian put the icing on the cake 17 minutes from time.

    With only Friday's friendly against Serbia to come before the Brazilians meet Croatia in their 12 June World Cup opener in Sao Paulo, 2002 title-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seized the chance to use several second string players.

    Afterwards, he indicated he saw room for further improvement. "I am still concerned. We are getting better - but we know we have a fair way to go," indicated the man who lifted Brazil's fifth Cup in Japan 12 years ago and who now wants to deliver first success on home soil.

    "The run out was worthwhile but we must up our rhythm and be a lot better for the Croatia game," prior to further group games against Mexico and Cameroon.

    Scolari explained the opening minutes of Tuesday's game had concerned him. "We were a bit off beam in the opening minutes and it could have been different had we been playing a superior opponent. Afterwards, we improved."

    With Neymar scoring one and making two - he also earned a yellow card - Scolari said of his star man: "Everyone knows Neymar's talent. But he always comes up with something new to surprise."

    Scolari added that with the striker having missed a chunk of Barcelona's run-in to the end of the Spanish league campaign through injury he planned to give him another full 90 minutes against the Serbians.

    Scolari had called on his side to pull their socks up after a slovenly training session on Sunday and they responded after a quiet opening quarter of an hour. Luis Tejada picked up a yellow card for the visitors with a foul on Neymar and Brazil's star man swiped his free-kick high into the net to delight a 30,000 crowd.

    The Barcelona starlet then crossed for Fred but the Scolari favourite directed a header off target. Alves then smacked home the second with a low effort to all but break the visitors' sagging resistance and allow Scolari the luxury of six changes.

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    Fred secures Brazil win over Serbia

    Brazil completed their FIFA World Cupô warm-up with a 1-0 win friendly over Serbia.

    Fred netted the only goal at the Estadio Morumbi in Sao Paulo in Brazil's final test before their host-nation debut against Croatia in the tournament's opening game next Thursday. That match will be played in the same city, but at a different venue - the Arena Corinthians. Despite being so close to the beginning of the official competition, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari fielded most of his usual starters such as Neymar, Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva and may therefore be concerned at the nature of the performance.

    The Selecao were unable to break the tough Serbian defensive line until the 58th minute. Silva passed the ball to Fred, who chested it down, avoided the mark of a defender and managed to finish the play despite falling down on the grass. As Brazil made a number of substitutions, they failed to hurt Serbia again. One player to worry about for Scolari is defender Maicon, who ended the match with pain in his right leg. "Today's rivals were both physically and defensively strong," striker Hulk told Globoesporte.com after the game. "We found it difficult to break two four-man defensive lines. We needed some patience."

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    Scolari: This is our World Cup

    Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has issued a passionate rallying cry on the eve of his team's FIFA World Cupô opener, telling an expectant nation: "This is our World Cup." Scolari's words at a packed press conference in Sao Paulo were backed by Brazilian forward Neymar, tipped by many to be the star of the event as excitement in the South American nation builds to fever pitch. "To all Brazilians I want to tell you the time has arrived. This is our World Cup," said the coach, who was at the helm the last time the five-time champions won the tournament, in 2002.

    Scolari, whose team take on Croatia on Thursday at the new Corinthians Arena, vowed however to take each game at a time. "There are seven steps," he said. "We have to go up those seven steps but to start we have to think of the first step. We can't jump the seven steps. The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup." Barcelona star Neymar, the focus of so much attention in the build-up to the tournament, said the "time has arrived" that all Brazilians and the whole world have been waiting for.

    "We hope that this last day goes by very quickly. I am anxious of course but also I'm extremely happy being where I am today because many people would like to be here," he said. "I really hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of the players, and Brazilians, which is to win the World Cup." Scolari has the luxury of being able to field the same team that destroyed world champions Spain 3-0 in the final of last year's Confederations Cup, with Neymar the focal point of a powerful and settled line-up. He said he felt his 2014 squad had the same commitment to hard work as the side that won the 2002 World Cup, featuring the likes Ronaldo and Rivaldo.

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