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The pain and pangs of being the favourites

The Brazilians have been focused on the World Cup since arriving in South Africa last Thursday, but it won’t be until June 15 that the tournament officially begins for the five-time world champions. “As each day passes, the anxiety increases,” midfielder Felipe Melo said.

sports Updated: Jun 02, 2010 00:53 IST

Brazil still has two weeks left before making its World Cup debut, and players are struggling to find ways to overcome their anxiety.

The Brazilians have been focused on the World Cup since arriving in South Africa last Thursday, but it won’t be until June 15 that the tournament officially begins for the five-time world champions. “As each day passes, the anxiety increases,” midfielder Felipe Melo said.

Brazil has been preparing for the World Cup since May 21, when nearly all players reported to the national team in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba.

The team is already immersed in the World Cup atmosphere, but the opener against North Korea seems in the far distance.

“Every day we are thinking about the World Cup,” Felipe Melo said. “Things start going through your mind, you start dreaming about it.”

Players will have a first taste of action on Tuesday in a friendly against Zimbabwe in Harare, and will also face Tanzania on Sunday in Dar es Salaam. After debuting against the Koreans in two weeks, Brazil will play the Ivory Coast on June 20 and Portugal on June 25. The World Cup begins on June 11 with South Africa facing Mexico.

So far the players have been trying to get their minds off the World Cup by playing video games and other pastimes such as table tennis. In their only time off last week, some played golf near the team’s hotel and others visited a shopping mall.

Brazil is trying to win its sixth World Cup title, the first since 2002 in South Korea and Japan. The players want to leave behind the bad impression of the elimination in Germany four years ago, when it fell to eventual runner-up France in the quarterfinals. “It’s a lot of responsibility, you are playing for your country, for millions and millions of people,” Felipe Melo said.

Brazil enters the competition a favorite again even though Dunga left out from his squad stars such as Ronaldinho, Adriano and Ronaldo.