Brazil 0-2 PortugalFriendly Match Emirates Stadium Tuesday, Feb 6, 2007. 8pm
By Dan Brennan
A decade ago, the notion of Brazilians playing for Arsenal might still have seemed a touch fanciful. That all changed with the arrival of Arsène Wenger, who has drafted in a series of Samba stars, one of whom, Gilberto Silva, is set to feature today, while Julio Baptista and young Denilson have also figured in the Seleção recently.
The first Brazilian to blaze the trail to North London was one Silvio Mendes Campos Junior, better known as Silvinho, who arrived from his home-town club Corinthians in 1999. A marauding left-back, Silvinho spent two seasons with the Gunners, gaining many friends and admirers, before heading to Spain in 2001, first to Celta Vigo and then his current club Barcelona, where he has won both domestic and European silverware. Soon to be 33, he recently signed a new deal that will keep him at the Camp Nou until 2008. Ahead of today's game he shared his thoughts on the current Brazil team with the matchday programme.
Were it not for a busy schedule with Barcelona, who are flying high in La Liga once more and have a last 16 Champions League tie against Liverpool to look forward to, former Gunner Silvinho says he would be hopping on the plane to London today to pay a first visit to the Emirates.
"I've been telling my Barca teammates Deco and Ronaldinho that they are very lucky to be playing at Arsenal's great new stadium," reveals the former Gunner. "I've not had a chance to visit myself yet, though I've seen it on TV, but I'd love to be there to watch the game and experience the atmosphere. Unfortunately, I think I'll be busy in Spain with training, so it's probably not going to be possible. But when I get some free time, I will definitely come over. I'd love that.
"I have really great memories of being an Arsenal player.
The Club is still a part of me; they were my first team in Europe
and they gave me a great opportunity to play in one of the best
teams in the world."
Turning his thoughts to today's game and the state of the national team, Silvinho sees plenty to enthuse about.
"As always, Brazil will put out a great side. Of course there are some changes going on now in the team. We have a change of generations, with new players such as Robinho and Elano, who played a great game against Argentina. There are several players who are now playing in Russia and Ukraine who have the chance to become big stars for Brazil. I am talking about Elano, and also Wagner Love and Daniel Carvalho. They don't have European passports now, but perhaps they will eventually move to Spain or England."
While the likes of Elano and Carvalho are the latest players to emerge off the never-ending conveyor belt of attacking players, it is perhaps in defence where the generation change is most evident. After what seems an eternity rampaging down the flanks for the Selecao, veteran full-backs Cafu and Roberto Carlos have finally called time on their international careers. And while stepping into their boots is an immensely tall order, Silvinho - who himself won six caps as understudy to Roberto Carlos - believes they have another future star emerging in his position.
"If I had to pick one player for a big future - a player I really like and who I wish great luck to - it would be Adriano Correia Claro," says Silvinho. "He plays on the left of midfield for Sevilla, but has started now to play left-back for the Brazilian national team, which is really his natural position. There are several very good players coming through in this position. Replacing Roberto Carlos is a tough job, but I think Adriano has a great chance to do it. He is a terrific prospect and has a great future."
Another player who Silvinho will be keeping a special eye on for both Brazil and with his former club Arsenal is Julio 'The Beast' Baptista, who at the time of this interview was busy wreaking havoc on the Liverpool defence, scoring four goals at Anfield in the Carling Cup.
"I don't know Julio Baptista personally, although we played against each other a few times in Spain," says Silvinho. "He is so strong, and so quick. Especially when he was at Sevilla, he was fantastic. I am sure he will be a real success for Arsenal. As for Denilson [Arsenal's other Brazilian recruit last summer], I don't really know anything about him, to be honest. But he has captained the Brazil Under-18 team, and the fact that Arsène Wenger has signed him is enough to tell you that he must be something special.
"It's really hard to explain why Brazil produces so many good young players like Denilson. Obviously, it is a very big country, and football is so important to everyone. Every kid in Brazil dreams of becoming the next big star. Maybe we will be seeing him in the Seleção before too long as well."
Real the full interview
and much, much more in
the official Brazil v Portugal
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