Tuesday 13 October 2020, 07:07

Firmino: I want to be the No9 Brazil can rely on

  • Firmino scored twice in Brazil’s 5-0 win over Bolivia

  • He discusses his new position and desire to win Qatar 2022

  • He raves about Alisson, Coutinho, Neymar and Salah

Brazil coaches, throughout time, have been pestered by a persistent problem: getting their cosmically gifted but equally carefree attackers to track back.

Tite has had a paradox problem. The present Seleção shot-caller, indeed, requested that his spearhead do less tracking back as he endeavours to polish him into a bona fide striker. Roberto Firmino responded by scoring twice as Brazil thumped Bolivia 5-0 in step one of their mission to reach the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

The Liverpool man chatted to FIFA.com about this positional modification, the forthcoming game against Peru, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Mohamed Salah and his eagerness to help Brazil win football’s most prestigious prize.

FIFA.com: How did it feel to score two goals against Bolivia? Roberto Firmino: The performance of the whole team, the spirit we showed deserves congratulations. Getting off to a winning start was really important, and to do it with such a good performance makes it even better. Scoring two goals was an incredible feeling. I had more chances, I could have scored more, but I’m very happy. I’m 29, I feel I’m at the best moment of my career. I want to keep working hard and help Seleção reach the World Cup.

Is it true Tite asked you to track back less? Yes. It’s not that he asked me not to help out, but he wants me to always be in the area. I still have to get back to mark, but he wants me to chase back less after the ball, be in the box more. I have a natural urge to help out, get back – I do this for Liverpool – so I have put this aside and do what Tite has asked of me. I enjoy being involved in play, creating goals, but I also enjoy being in the box, scoring goals.

Brazil had Careca, Romario and Ronaldo for three decades, but have struggled in the striker department thereafter. Can you be this No9? Yes, definitely. I love playing in this position, I want to be the player Brazil can rely on in this position.

What do you think of Peru? They’re a team that have improved a lot over the last few years. They reached the last World Cup, they reached the final of the Copa America last year. We were victorious but it was a difficult game. They have good players and are a very dangerous team. We know it will be a difficult game. We have to be at our best to win.

Alisson is out injured, but where do you think he ranks among the world’s best goalkeepers? For me he’s the number one. I’m not just saying that because he’s my team-mate. The things he does on the pitch are incredible. He’s already done a great job for the Seleção. And off the pitch he’s a sensational guy. He’s a great person, a great friend, someone I get on with really well.

Philippe Coutinho is in fine form... He’s phenomenal. You simply can’t say that he’s not a magician. He has magical powers. He produces plays that don’t exist, that you couldn’t make up. You always have to watch replays of his plays to understand what he’s done. He’s an unbelievable player. It was a pleasure to play with him at Liverpool, and it’s a pleasure to play with him for the Seleção. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s one of the very best players in the world.

What do you think of Neymar? Another unbelievable player. He was brilliant against Bolivia. He was getting back to mark a lot and he did amazing things with the ball. There are no words to describe Neymar.

And Mo Salah? I admire Salah a lot. I love the way he plays. He scores a lot of goals. You wouldn’t believe how hard he works. I’m very grateful to play alongside him and [Sadio] Mane, another magnificent player.

Finally, you’ve won so much with Liverpool. How badly do you want to win the World Cup? So, so, so, so much. Much more than you can imagine. I’ve won the Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup, the Premier League. [The World Cup] is what’s missing for me. I have to keep working hard and dreaming, and we have to believe that this is possible in 2022. I’m immensely proud to be part of this Seleção, to play with these players, for these coaches. I have tremendous belief in this group of players and the coaching staff.