Brazil star Dani Alves expressed hope on Monday that the threat of violent protests does not overshadow the World Cup as he set his sights on a final showdown with South American rivals Argentina.
The 31-year-old Barcelona right-back backed the protests that marred last year’s Confederations Cup in the country. But he sent a truce appeal to his compatriots during a press conference at Brazil’s training camp in Teresopolis.
“I know that sometimes it is difficult to put the situation in our country to one side, but the whole world will be here and everyone deserves to be welcomed in the way the Brazilian people know how,” he said.
“For us it gives us great joy to see the supporters starting to get excited about the World Cup and it is going to be a marvellous moment for everyone.”
With the tournament’s opening game between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo in Group A still three days away, Alves allowed himself to get carried away when asked about who he would love to face in the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
“If you want me to choose a final I would like to see Brazil against Argentina, because it is a ‘classico’, a game with so much history. It would be great to win a World Cup by beating such a team,” he said.
As if the prospect of winning a sixth World Cup, and a first on home soil, were not enough, Alves would love to do it by beating a side they have not met in the finals since 1990.
Back then, Argentina were reigning world champions when a late Claudio Caniggia goal gave them a 1-0 victory in the last 16 in Italy. That is the only time Brazil have lost to their neighbours in four meetings at the World Cup.
– Brazil favourites –
Alves said the Selecao should be considered favourites to lift the trophy this time.
“Firstly out of respect to Spain, as the reigning champions, they will always be among the favourites,” he said.
“I like Germany, they have great players, Argentina have a spectacular attack, but Brazil are the favourites, along with Spain, because we have the crowd alongside us.”
If Brazil and Argentina, the two giants of South America, live up to expectations and win their groups, they will not be able to meet before the final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
The earliest possible meeting of the sides would be in the semi-finals, and it would throw up a tantalizing clash between Argentina’s Lionel Messi on the one hand, and Brazil’s Neymar on the other — two men who play alongside Alves at Barcelona.
“I think any team that depends on Messi or Neymar should be very happy,” said Alves when asked about the importance of his club colleagues.
“You have someone in whom you can trust. It is better to have this so-called dependency than not. Better than that depending on your opponents not playing well or having someone out injured.”