DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Dani Alves was given a job to do, and he had to complete it to have a chance of making it to the World Cup.
“Mission given, mission accomplished,” the veteran Brazil right back said Thursday.
Dani Alves will start against Cameroon on Friday to become the oldest Brazilian player at a World Cup at the age of 39. He was in danger of not making it to Qatar after Brazil’s staff visited him in Mexico — where he plays with Pumas — and said he was not in good condition physically.
The staff told him the only chance he could be called up for the World Cup was if he could get back in shape.
“I wasn’t in my best condition when they went to visit me. They noticed it, so I asked them, ‘What’s my mission?’” Alves said. “Because I’m very good at completing my missions.”
The staff told Alves exactly what he needed to do, giving him some specific training goals. He quickly went to work.
“When they came again, they saw that I was ready,” Alves said. “I was committed. I couldn’t let them down after so much history with the national team. There were some difficult moments during those four months but I made sure that I could be here right now.”
By playing Friday, he will surpass the 38-year-old Thiago Silva, the team’s captain in Qatar, as the oldest Brazilian to play in a World Cup.
“I’m proud to be here and to be closing my cycle with the Brazilian national team in a World Cup,” he said. “Life has taught me that when you really want something, and when you really work hard for it, you will be rewarded.”
Alves’ call-up was the most criticized when Brazil coach Tite announced the final World Cup list, mainly because he hadn’t been playing with Pumas. He joined the Mexican club earlier this year after Barcelona decided not to extend his contract.
“It’s normal that people criticized me, because of my age and because of my situation,” Alves said. “But I can add to the national team even if I’m not in my best moment. I can contribute regardless if I am playing more of less.”
Tite said Alves made it to the squad for his contributions on and off the field.
“He has the quality as a player and deserves all my respect for having gone so far in his career,” Tite said. “He transcends soccer. It’s not only about what he does on the field.”
Alves will get to start against Cameroon because Tite is rotating the entire squad after Brazil won its first two games and has already reached the round of 16.
The coach said he didn’t use Alves in the game against Switzerland because he needed a more defensive-minded player to replace the injured Danilo at right back. He picked central defender Éder Militão instead.
“I understood that the team at that moment needed someone to defend, and I’m better at attacking,” Alves said.
Alves first played with Brazil in 2006 and is participating in his third World Cup. His last appearance at the tournament was in the round of 16 in 2014. He was injured ahead of the tournament in Russia.
Alves will be the captain against Cameroon in what will be his 126th appearance for Brazil.
“My mission is to serve the national team any way I can,” Alves said. “If it’s by playing the tambourine, then I’ll try to be the best tambourine player that I can be.”
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