Gilette Brasil Global Tour

In part one of our exclusive interview, Hulk talks of the pressures of playing for Brazil, reveals the jokers in the pack and praises Willian, his rival for a place on the right

Gillette Brasil Global Tour: How important is this game in Africa now?
Hulk: “The most important thing is that it’s our last game before the World Cup. Obviously we have games in May but we’re all fighting for our place as we all have the same dream of playing in this World Cup. We’ve got players here who are hoping for that and players who aren’t here also hoping for that. Brazil have some great players and I’m sure it will be a headache for Felipao to choose a final 23. We’re just all very nervous that we’ll get that chance to make our dreams come true of playing for Brazil in a World Cup. So we’ll enjoy this friendly in South Africa to play an excellent game and our last chance to impress before the Copa.”
GBGT: Obviously there is always pressure in playing for Brazil but there is surely more now. How do you cope with it?
Hulk: “There’s always pressure on Brazil because we’re always in a position where we’re going for a title; we have to get to the final. But we’re taking the positives from this pressure. Obviously expectations will be huge as we’re playing at home but then we’ll have the fans behind us – they’re our 12th man – and our families cheering us on. So we’ll go out on to the pitch knowing that it’s not just us, it’s not about 11 players or 23, we’ve got 200 million passionate fans all willing Brazil on. We know that this team will depend on that support and I’m sure they’ll get behind us and be our 12th man.”

GBGT: We were talking about this great atmosphere in the team – who’s the biggest joker among you?
Hulk: “I think everyone – it’s hard to single someone out. Fred’s a real joker, Neymar, David Luiz, Marcelo, Daniel ... everyone! It’s hard to name just one. As I said, everyone respects each other and everyone jokes with each other so there’s no other atmosphere like it. It’s just fun all the time, we’re constantly laughing, we joke around when we get to training, train seriously and then when the game starts it’s war. We’ll play with everything and then after the game it’s back to laughing again. That’s how we live.”
GBGT: David Luiz and Oscar said you were the funniest guy ...
Hulk: “[Laughs] I try to always have a laugh but, as I said, so does everyone else and it’s just a wonderful atmosphere. I feel very comfortable here and hope to enjoy it for many years to come.”
GBGT: What does Willian bring to this team?
Hulk: “Willian is a great player. I’ve always followed his career since he left Brazil early – I watched him in the Champions League for Shakhtar and have played against him too. He’s got incredible quality and is deservedly playing for Brazil as he’s a very good player. He’s playing well for Chelsea and he deserves the best because as well as being a great player, he’s a great guy off the pitch too, so I wish him the best of luck.”

GBGT: A year ago Brazil weren’t playing well and the fans had stopped believing in you all. What has changed in those past 12 months for you to turn it around?
Hulk: "I’d say we were only just getting together as a team a year ago, trying to maintain a steady squad. We’ve always had quality players in Brazil but we didn’t have a team. Obviously Dunga and Mano Manezes did an excellent job but I think it was only after Felipao’s arrival that we forged a real team – we were able to make those individual talents gel for the collective good and we then had a really strong squad. And thankfully we’re enjoying a good moment."

Come back next week for part 2 of our exclusive interview, when Hulk talks Felipao, his teammates, his position and the Scolari Family 2.0