Brazil collectively strong and focused
Sao Paulo -- Before anyone had a chance to ask a question, Felipe Scolari made a statement that certainly made an impression.
"For all Brazilians, I want to say our time has arrived," the manager declared. "We want to go together. This is our World Cup."
The emphasis on the collective was all too clear, as was the sense of assurance and corresponding calm ahead of the opening match against Croatia. Scolari hit all the notes he needed to, but it didn't exactly seem he needed to try. He just radiated the right mood.
If Brazil are a squad under immense pressure to rectify the wrongs of 1950 by finally lifting the World Cup at home, and so many of their people are protesting the very hosting of the event, you wouldn't have got a sense of any of that in the Arena de Sao Paulo press conference.
Once Scolari and Neymar had proclaimed that Brazil would absolutely win this trophy, they were content to joke with each other: about the manager's bed-time habits, about the player's hair. There were no actual questions from an overbearingly supportive local media about all the public unrest to disrupt that mood. Scolari seemed to reference the protests, but he also referenced the support the squad have received in Brazil and the overriding sense of the collective that pervades the team.
By listening to the manager, you would believe the team actually symbolises the unity Scolari professes. And, of all players, Neymar symbolises the idea of individual players fully committing to the collective good.
"I don't want to be the best player in the World Cup, I don't want to be the top scorer, I want to win the World Cup."
The Barcelona forward is certainly seen as Brazil's defining and decisive individual player. Just as the team are charged with burying the past, he is expected to replicate the legends of old. It's quite a burden for a mere 22-year-old.
Again, though, you wouldn't have thought it from this press conference. Neymar struck all the right notes. At one point, he was even asked about properly making the World Cup his own, like so many of his predecessors. At that point, he eschewed any sense of the individual, just as his manager has been preaching.
"I don't want to be the best player in the World Cup, I don't want to be the top scorer, I want to win the World Cup," said Neymar. "I will work 100 percent on the pitch to help my other players. Nobody plays alone."
If those sound like empty words, Scolari pointed to the actual work Neymar has been doing.
"This 2014 squad is a squad that, in specific situations, some players do some things on the pitch that are different to what the whole team does," said Scolari. "One of them is beside me. He doesn't specialise in marking, but sometimes he does try it to give his contribution to the whole team."
Scolari emphasised that Neymar is "just another one" of the squad, which is key. When the subject of a single player dominating a tournament came up again, the Brazilian manager scoffed and said it doesn't matter if you are the star of the tournament but don't win the World Cup.
The work of the squad, however, has helped Scolari himself make sense of other issues. In the one sombre moment of the press conference, he was asked about the tragic death of his nephew in a car crash the day before. The manager's facial expression visibly changed.
"Yes, we have gone through difficult times together and we know what this means but life goes on. We do what we have to do and we go on. Each one has a path to follow," said Scolari.
"I find my strength from working with the players. These players dedicate themselves every day. They work themselves. Even when we are not amongst them. They are always trying to improve. All this makes us, even when we're feeling sad, forget the sadness and feel the beauty of what is happening around you."
The manager's grounded approach is why a team that surprisingly features such lesser lights as Fred and Jo is considered so fearsome. His mentality is why the team are better able to handle all the associated pressures of winning the World Cup on home soil.
The best evidence is 2002, and the last time Brazil lifted the trophy. Scolari insisted this squad reminded him of those champions.
Neymar also spoke of how he wants to replicate the likes of Ronaldo and how he draws inspiration from the Brazilian legends that came before him.
By then, the levity had more than returned to the room, which led to the one break with the line for the day. As Neymar went on about emulating great players, Scolari gave him a playful smack on the head, almost as if to chide the youngster for getting ahead of himself; for being that individual. The manager acted like he was making a joke about Neymar's hair by swiping it, but the message was again clear.
Step by step, Scolari might have stated, before actually going on and saying it.
"We have seven steps," the manager said. "We have to go up these seven but, to start, we have to think of the first step. We can't jump to seven. So the idea I transmit to my team is that we have the first step against Croatia."
It seems to have made an impression. Brazil are at least in the right mindset ahead of such a monumental tournament for the country. The question now is whether they have the right mix.