Friday 07 April 2017, 09:11

Dani Alves: The change in mindset was vital

  • With 101 international appearances, Alves is the most capped player in the current Brazil squad

  • He has played in every match since Tite took over as coach, bar the home win over Paraguay in March, which he missed through injury

  • The full-back gives his view on Argentina’s Russia 2018 qualification hopes

Brazil are currently enjoying their best spell of form in many a year. Fresh from booking their place at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™, they have just reinstalled themselves at the top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.

We spoke to Dani Alves, one of their most experienced players. Now 33, the Juventus full-back is playing a key role on A Canarinha’s right flank. What’s your take on the tremendous run of form Brazil have had since Tite took over as coach? Dani Alves: Obviously we’re delighted, but we know that things weren’t so disastrous before and they’re not so wonderful now. We’re the same players, and though the philosophy has changed, we worked just as hard before. The thing is, sometimes when results aren’t going your way, a change in mindset can be the catalyst you need. And that’s what happened with us.

What was the change exactly? I think the difference is that we’ve got a clearer idea of what to do now, and that’s allowed us to go from the bottom to the top. But we need to be patient. We know that only time will tell if this improvement is going to last and if we can strive for even more. We achieved our objective of reaching the World Cup, but we need to keep it going and not settle for what we’ve got. We need to maintain our balance and have a settled squad – that way we’ll be able to keep on getting good results.

In the last few years we’ve seen Brazil peak the year before world finals, winning the 2009 and 2013 FIFA Confederations Cups, and then fall short at the World Cup. How can you prevent that from happening again? It’s true that we created too much in the way of expectation and that we didn’t live up to it with our results. We won’t be playing in the Confederations Cup this time, but we have learned from the experience. The challenge facing us now is to do well in the rest of our qualifying matches and prepare well so that we can peak at the World Cup.

  • A Canarinha finished fourth at Brazil 2014 and were knocked out in the quarter-finals at South Africa 2010, beaten on both occasions by the Netherlands in their final game

You were struggling in the qualifiers for Russia 2018 a few months ago and now you’re on top of the table, while Argentina made a good start and are now struggling themselves. What do you put that down to? It’s because the South American qualifiers are tough, the hardest in the world if you ask me, the ones where you have to adapt the most. You have to go to Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and the like. They’re tough games to play, and the atmosphere can be hostile. You have a lot of problems to overcome. It wasn’t easy before and it’s not easy now, but the important thing is to be prepared and not come up with excuses. The qualifiers are a test of how mature you are.

But do you think Lionel Messi and Co will make it to Russia? Argentina will recover and they’ll make it to the World Cup. They’re one of the traditional powerhouses of the game, and history counts for a lot. And they’ve got great players too, of course. It’s hard to picture a World Cup without the best, and Argentina have got Messi, Mascherano and many more. They’ll be there.

Part two of this interview with Dani Alves, in which he talks about the upcoming UEFA Champions League quarter-final between his current employers, Juventus, and his former club, Barcelona, will be published on Monday.