Da Silva pins his hopes on Brazil for Russia 2018

Dubai: Brazil’s former World Cup star Gilberto da Silva is backing the Selecao to lift the trophy after a 16-year gap at the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia.

Da Silva, who was in Dubai last week as one of the ambassadors at the Matreshka Festival held at the City Walk, believes the current team has made a shift from over-reliance on Neymar to evolving into a firm unit under coach Tite.

“I don’t think the team relies on Neymar anymore. And that’s the good thing about the current Brazil team as it doesn’t revolve around him. Of course, we cannot say Neymar is not important for the team. He is very important as he is the main figure, but the better thing is they can cope without him,” da Silva told Gulf News in a chat at the Bulgari Hotel.

“This is the main difference from 2014 and today. I think we relied too much on him in Brazil, and then when he got an injury we didn’t know how to pull ourselves out of the situation as a team. Come to think of it, many of the players in this squad were there in the last World Cup and they have grown up together. Now they are strong and they look sharp. Hope they will be ready with or without Neymar,” he added.

Featuring in all seven matches during Brazil’s successful campaign in South Korea and Japan in 2002, Da Silva now expects his country to return home with the trophy after three unsuccessful bids in 2006, 2010 and 2014 — where he had to sit alongside Michael Ballack in the commentary box and witness Brazil get mauled by the Germans 7-1.

“This time, I believe the chances of Brazil are real. But we have to work hard first. This is the lesson we learnt from the last World Cup. And because it has been painful for everyone we all want the team to deliver on the promise in a good display of football this time in Russia,” da Silva said.

“We know that the other teams will be tough. They will be up for it as well. But then if we want to achieve something we will need to play as a team. If we do play the way we have been doing since the past few months then we have a good chance,” he added.

And once again the former defensive midfielder from Arsenal and Brazil expects Germany to lead the group of challengers for the title in Russia. “Oh yes, you can’t forget Germany. But then there will be others as well. France will be strong and Spain too,” da Silva said.

“Even though Argentina’s form has been up and down, they are still a very hard competitor. And may be this time there will be Portugal too. They won the Euro 2016 and this is a great opportunity for them and for [Cristiano] Ronaldo to deliver on the big stage,” the 41-year-old added.