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‘Brazil will love Messi in 2014’

sports Updated: Dec 08, 2012 01:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Asked what he thought was the most important thing lacking when Liverpool went in at half-time down 0-3 in a Champions League final, Rafa Benitez had said: “English.” The then Liverpool manager was referring to his lack of fluency in a language his players understood best.

Replace English with Portuguese and Liverpool with a bunch of past Brazilian World Cup winners, throw in a lot of chaos and you get the drift of how their first interaction with the Indian media here went on Friday evening.

Till Juninho --- bless his days at Middlesbrough --- got caught in a media phalanx. Questions ranged from little Lionel to Big Phil and the answers rolled fluently from the 2002 World Cup winner who doesn’t look like he is 39. “Brazilians like ball players who are also goalscorers. So if (Lionel) Messi plays well in the 2014 World Cup, for sure Brazilians are going to like him. Obviously they will like him a lot less if he does well against Brazil,” said Juninho, replying to whether Brazil would warm up to the ball wizard from a country they love to hate. Edmilson, Juninho’s teammate in Japan and South Korea and here, may have hinted at preferring Cristiano Ronaldo over Messi but Juninho said he has no doubt that Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year will be broken and that a fourth straight World Player of the Year is headed Barcelona’s way.

“He (Messi) is the best player in the world but it is important to remember the contribution of his teammates (a point Messi never forgets to mention) such as Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta.”

Big Phil right choice
And when the conversation shifted to Luis Felipe Scorlari, Juninho gave a ringing endorsement of his former Brazil coach being the right man for the job now. “He is the perfect choice. The Brazil team isn’t good now and Scolari and (Carlos Alberto) Parreira know how to turn them around,” said Juninho. Parreira is the technical director of the Brazil national team where Scolari is head coach.

In the matter of Scolari’s appointment, Dunga and Bebeto, speaking separately, too said he was the right choice. Juninho said at the best of times, it’s difficult dealing with the pressure of being part of the Brazil national team and accepted “it’ll be a lot more when the World Cup’s at home. But the national team players know that.”