A loaded Brazil side was considered to be one of the biggest favourites to land the FIFA World Cup trophy, 20 years after securing their last title in the world flagship football competition. Therefore, the announcement of the roster was widely expected, every twist and turn from coach Tite making it more interesting.
While there were no big surprises, one name really stood out. Sure, right back Dani Alves is surely one of the most decorated players in Brazil’s history at club level, securing every possible trophy where he played in his star-studded career, which started 21 years ago, in a small Brazilian club called Bahia.
Since that moment, Alves featured for Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG before returning back to Brazil at Sao Paulo, having one more stint at Barcelona and now plying his trade in Mexico, at UNAM Pumas, with an uneventful season.
In total, Dani Alves has won 46 trophies with the teams he featured for, including three UEFA Champions League trophies, six La Liga titles, one Serie A title, two Ligue 1 titles, four UEFA Super Cups, three FIFA Club World Cup trophies and the domestic Cups in Spain, Italy and France.
He has also won the Copa America and the Confederations Cup twice with Brazil, with the only major trophy missing being the FIFA World Cup. Now he duly has the chance to deliver it and finish his star-studded playing career on a high.
At 39 years old, he was billed as too old to make a difference at the highest level, but there he was, with the captain armband on his left arm in the match against Cameroon, lost in the Lusail Iconic Stadium by Brazil, 0-1.
He also made his bit of history, becoming the oldest-ever player to captain Brazil at any level, including the FIFA World Cup, also tying fellow lateral defender Roberto Carlos as the second most capped player for Brazil, with 125 appearances, only 17 shy of the record set by right back Cafu.
“It’s been 16 years with the national squad and I’ve tried to do my very best. Life, I think, always rewards the people who love what they do, who truly do their best in the mission. I think I’m reaping what I have planted over those 16 years,” said Alves before the game against Cameroon, the last in the group phase played at Qatar 2022 by Brazil.
He also became the oldest player to ever feature for Brazil in a game, with Tite handing him over that chance.
The decision to take Alves to Qatar 2022 was dubbed shocking by many in Brazil, but coach Tite explained himself, as the right back became a mentor for plenty of Brazilian players during his career, including star Neymar.
”He adds technical and tactical aspects that are impressive, to be an organiser, an articulator. Sure he is not a 60 to 70 metres player anymore, but he has other virtues. The criteria awards his technical quality, but mental and physical aspects too,” said Tite, defending the selection.
Adding to his age, Alves was also undergoing rehabilitation on his knee prior to the kickoff to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and featured only 12 times for UNAM Pumas, being regularly booed whenever he took the pitch and featured for the Mexican side.
But the right back, who has 125 caps to his name, was still an important member of Brazil’s team, having also featured at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where the Selecao won the gold medal, ticking all the minutes in the competition and acting as a huge buffer between the younger players and the staff.
“For me it represents the fact that I can wear the Brazil jersey. It makes me very proud to be here. I’ve been with the Brazilian squad for many years and to be able to wrap up this cycle, playing a World Cup, makes me very happy.”
“My mission is to give my best for the team. In the two games so far when the team hasn’t needed a defender, then I am more of an attacker. I am here to serve Brazil. If I have to play the drums, I’ll be the best drummer. Give me a mission and I will execute it,” added Alves.
He could not resist delivering some words for the critics, as he also tried to be as polite as possible, with Brazil’s mission still being to win the trophy for the sixth time in history.
“If I was playing for Barcelona this wouldn’t happen. In Brazil, someone always wants to criticise you. As the rest of the players in the squad are in great teams in Europe, it is my turn to be criticised. A lot of people question my selection because of my age, because I’m not at my best, but for a World Cup you don’t have to be good in the team, you have to be good in the World Cup. That’s what I’ve done since 2003. That’s why I’m here,” concluded Alves.