A world champion in 1994, former Brazil defender Ricardo Rocha has left behind the legacy of a leader. Remembered fondly for his big personality, never was his character more evident than in USA 94, when a torn muscle in Brazil’s first match saw him ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.
His team-mates insisted he remain with the squad, and many have since spoken of the positive impact he had on the group that would go on to seal the Tetra – the Selecao’s fourth world tite.
To this day he remains the most devoted of Selecao fans and was only too happy to sit down with Brasil Global Tour this week to discuss the current national team ahead of next year’s World Cup in Russia.
"Tite has been able to introduce quality to this Brazil team. Looking at how they have been playing, at everything that has been achieved, there are expectations again now with Brazil playing so well.” He said.
“Now comes a World Cup, however, and World Cup a very difficult thing, I participated in two and there are a lot of difficulties to overcome, but this Selecao is prepared."
Keen to ensure Brazil don’t get ahead of themselves going into Russia, Ricardo Rocha maintains that, while the Selecao will certainly be in the running, they are just one of a number of nations capable of taking the title.
"I do not like to say that Brazil are the favourite. Are we the favourite? No. We are a favourite. There are other teams that are also doing well. Germany, Spain, and I would say Portugal too. There are some very good players in the Belgium team and you always have to keep an eye on France. But I do think Brazil have set their sights on the title.”
Brazil sailed into Russia under Tite, who had found a settled and successful starting XI. There is still work to do, however, particularly in identifying the reserves that will make up the 23. And Rocha believes they are still missing a penalty-area centre-forward.
"I think Tite would like to have a forward who works in the area he is looking to see who could be that centre-forward, on with characteristics resembles Adriano, for example - if there was a player like that then Tite would call him up. There are others, like Jo, who was the top scorer of the Brasileirao.”
Tite has now selected up to 80 per cent of the 23-man squad he plans to take to Russia, but Ricardo Rocha believes that the door is not yet closed to anyone and singled out Sao Paulo midfielder Hernanes as a possible late wildcard.
“I think Hernanes is in good form, he's had a great Brazilian Championship and he's an experienced player, the type of player you do not need to test first.”
“I also really like Luan of Gremio, I think Luan is a very good player. Neymar, to me, is one of the best players in the world, he is certainly among the top three. He will be key to our chances at the World Cup.”
Finally, Ricardo Rocha touched on the group that awaits Brazil in Russia, which will see them go up against Costa Rica, Switzerland and Serbia.
"Everyone said that it is a weak group, but it is not weak, it is just a normal group, though good for World Cup. It’s normal to a tournament against average opponents. The games will provide a good early test for our national team.