Alves: Opening match as important as final
Brazil is looking to send a message to supporters and rivals in the World Cup opening match.
TERESOPOLIS Brazil - Brazil is looking to send a message to supporters and rivals in the World Cup's opening match, right back Dani Alves said on Monday, raising the stakes for the clash against Croatia.
A lacklustre 1-0 win over Serbia in Friday's warmup game brought jeers from the home crowd and raised doubts about the heavily favoured Brazil team, which Alves was quick to dismiss.
He said the host nation's players would be at their best when the tournament begins on Thursday.
"The moment of truth is starting now," he told reporters, turning the focus to the opener. "It's not just about three points, it should also send a message to future rivals.
"I think it's the most important game of the World Cup, along with the final."
The national team has long had a testy relationship with Sao Paulo fans at the Morumbi stadium, where they struggled against Serbia. But Alves was confident of a different mood across town at the new Corinthians arena that will host the opening match.
"Because we're playing at home... I'm certain the people will be on our side," said Alves. "That will confirm that the Brazilian team is the favourite."
Support for the team has grown at their training ground north of Rio de Janeiro with a crowd of about 1,000 fans greeting them on their return from Sao Paulo on Sunday.
That contrasted with two weeks before, when a group of teachers circled the team bus to protest over spending on the World Cup as part of a strike.
Anger over the amount spent on the finals and broken promises ahead of the tournament contributed to a wave of demonstrations last year with opponents questioning whether hosting global sporting events should be a national priority.
"For us it's a gift to see the fans, our people, now understand that the Cup has arrived in Brazil and it's going to be an amazing moment," said Alves.
"I know it is difficult sometimes for us to set aside the situation our country is in, but the world is going to be here and they deserve a real Brazilian reception."