As we prepare to take on Ghana today, I’d like to assert that you are yet to see the best of Brazil. Already, however, it seems as though I am part of an entirely different World Cup than the one in which we were playing before the Japan match.
Personally, my two goals against Japan have brought forth a flood of congratulatory messages. So excessive is the praise that it is as though criticism about my game and fitness never existed.
I think that the alleged lack of spontaneity that we displayed in the group stage had partly to do with the fact that our opponents played extremely defensive football. Now that we have reached the knockouts, however, I would like to think that our rivals will be a little more aggressive, which will probably mean more goals being scored all around. As I have said before, it is exasperating to play in a match where goal scoring is not the prime concern.
Right now, we are absolutely united as a team, and the boys are unanimous in their desire to improve with every game. This is an excellent formula, and it is based on a concept to which I have always assigned utmost importance, both on the field and off it: patience.
Whatever anyone says, we in the team know that Brazil is growing better with every game, and so are our fitness levels. The one goal that is fixed in all our minds is that of winning the Cup, to the exclusion of all personal aspirations and search for individual accolades.
A few journalists asked me the other day what I thought about the possibility of playing Spain in the quarter-finals. Though I prefer to wait and see whether that will really happen, the Spaniards have undoubtedly distinguished themselves in this tournament and are playing very good football.
A lot of people back home in Brazil have been closely watching the progress of Spain, but I believe it would be irresponsible on our part to think ahead to the next round without first overcoming the round of 16.
Which brings me to our opponents today: Ghana had been placed in a difficult group and one thought the Czech Republic would emerge the leader there. However, the way they have played makes it obvious that our Dortmund encounter will not exactly be a walk in the park.
Ghana are playing highly effective soccer, possess a high level of physical fitness and are also capable of excellent technical skills. I saw their three games and I think they are a team that combine very well. In any case, I have always said that African teams mean bad news for Brazil. In the Atlanta Olympic Games, in which I participated, Nigeria eliminated us, while in Sydney it was Cameroon that came between Brazil and the gold medal.
The thing that strikes me most about teams from Africa is that they never give up a game as lost. With a lot of other teams, you can assume that a two-goal lead will allow you to dominate the match because they simply will not have the persistence to try and make up the difference.
With the African countries, however, you know that you must fight for the entire 90 minutes because they simply refuse to stay down. In this World Cup, one clear example that comes to mind is the confrontation between Serbia and the Ivory Coast, where the latter overcame all odds to win.
So the warning signs are out, but we also know that we will give tomorrow's encounter all we have, and that our race to become champions of the world is far from over.