With the 2014 World Cup just a fortnight away, the official Chelsea website begins our build up to the tournament, which gets underway in Brazil on 12 June.
Between now and the beginning of the competition, we will be bringing you the thoughts of some of the players taking part, as well as some who have represented their countries at previous World Cups.
We start today with a member of the host nation’s squad who is about to embark upon his second World Cup campaign.
Ramires was part of the Brazil squad eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup four years ago and, as the Chelsea midfielder prepares to take part in the 2014 competition, on home soil, he is adamant there will be no repeat of the mistakes which cost them in South Africa.
With the fervent backing of a nation behind them, and buoyed by their success in the Confederations Cup a year ago, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side are considered by many as the favourites for this summer’s World Cup.
With talented sides such as Spain, Argentina and Germany standing in their way, Brazil will need to be at their best if they are to lift the Jules Rimet trophy for the sixth time. How far they go remains to be seen, but Ramires, who missed their 2-1 defeat to Netherlands last time around through suspension, is hopeful of an improved showing.
‘Last time it was my first World Cup experience,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘When I saw my name on the list to go for the first time, I had all these emotions, I was anxious at the time, because it shows the importance of participating in a World Cup.
‘We tried to get the first game right, winning against North Korea and getting through the group before reaching the knockout stage, where if you lose you are out. We made mistakes and conceded some goals to get knocked out, and we have to improve this time.’
Shortly after that painful exit Ramires moved to Stamford Bridge, where he has become an integral member of the squad.
On the international stage, however, he experienced a spell in the wilderness.
‘It was hard to understand at the time why I wasn’t being called up for the period of a year,’ he remembers. ‘My name was spoken about but I didn’t go. I wasn’t unhappy though. When my colleagues were called up I was happy because it was a sign the coach was watching and the team was doing something right.
‘There wasn’t any minute where I was unhappy, I just knew I had to keep working well for my club and the opportunity would arise again. I was patient waiting for the right time.’
Ramires continued to perform to the best of his ability for the Blues, resulting in Scolari bringing him back into the fold earlier this year.
He is thankful for the opportunity, and believes the former Chelsea manager is the man to lead them to World Cup glory.
‘It’s a process like at a club when a coach changes,’ he says. ‘Personnel, coaches, philosophy all change. After being out for a year I felt a bit nervous, you see the same people there but meet new ones too.
‘The team now has a great leader. It’s a strong team with excellent players and on the pitch we all give our best, and don’t want to disappoint the leader.
‘It’s a very proud team. You can see that from the coach down. He passes this on to us and when he tells us we can do it, we can achieve it, we believe it.’
While the romantics will hope Brazil can go all the way, their progression into the knockout stages is far from guaranteed having been drawn in a group containing Croatia – against whom they will open the tournament on 12 June – Cameroon and Mexico.
‘It is a tough group but we can’t look just at that – the tournament as a whole will be tough,’ says Ramires. ‘We don’t want to just prepare for the group, we have to prepare for further than that. If we pass the group stages and end up winning the last game, we can analyse how it was as a whole.
‘With the nation behind us, our support, and our team coming from a great Confederations Cup, where we exceeded expectations and won the tournament, we can be very confident.’
Brazil’s most recent World Cup success came 12 years ago, in 2002, when a Ronaldo brace inspired them to victory over Germany in Yokohama.
Ramires was just 15 years old at the time and remembers the game well. His focus now, however, is on ensuring his football-mad nation have another World Cup triumph to celebrate.
‘Twelve years is a long time but the World Cup is only played every four years,’ he says. ‘So it’s three World Cups now since our last win. In 1994 I was just a little kid, I followed it in 1998, but in 2002 I remember it the best because I understood it better. I watched the final against Germany many times, when Ronaldo scored the two goals, and it was a very proud moment for our nation.
‘Now, the responsibility lies with the 23 players called up. The last time we played a World Cup on our home soil was over 50 years ago when we lost against Uruguay. Nobody knows the next time there will be another one, so we have to try and give that enjoyment to our fans, and bring another proud moment again.’