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Brazil Trying To Overcome Anxiety Ahead Of World Cup

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
PTI June 01, 2010 16:32 IST
PTI

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. "It's inevitable."

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 in Johannesburg 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 what's going to happen."

Players will have a first taste of action on Tuesday in a friendly against Zimbabwe in Harare, and Brazil also will 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. He brought a revamped squad, with lesser-known players who helped the team achieve significant results since the coach took over after the 2006 World Cup.

Under Dunga, Brazil won the 2007 Copa America, the 2009 Confederations Cup and finished first in South America qualifying.

"As the World Cup approaches, it's normal to have the anxiety increase," Dunga said. "We know that everything we won until now is in the past. We understand that the only thing that counts now is the World Cup."

The World Cup has been the main subject back in Brazil for quite some time, and the players are aware the eyes of the entire country are on them.

"We know that if we do things right here we can make history," midfielder Julio Baptista said.

Baptista saw firsthand what the World Cup means to Brazilians, as he had to watch the 2006 tournament back home after being left out of the squad by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.  "I was a fan like any other Brazilian," he said. "I know what it means to them."

The players are confident they can make their people happy, but they know it won't be easy and are beginning to feel the pressure.

"We get a bit nervous," said Ramires, who like Felipe Melo and Baptista will be playing in his first World Cup. "We are all a little tense, but we have to try to leave the anxiety aside." AP