Scolari to Brazilians: The time has come, This is your World Cup!
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari issued a passionate rallying cry on Wednesday, telling an expectant nation the World Cup was theirs on the eve of the tournament opener.
Scolari's words at a packed press conference in Sao Paulo were backed by Brazilian forward Neymar, tipped by many to be the star of the event as excitement in the South American nation builds to fever pitch.
"To all Brazilians I want to tell you the time has arrived. This is our World Cup," said the coach, who was at the helm the last time the five-time champions won the tournament in 2002.
Scolari, whose team take on Croatia on Thursday at the new Corinthians Arena, refused to get carried away with the hype surrounding the favorites, vowing to take each game at a time.
"There are seven steps," he said. "We have to go up those seven steps but to start we have to think of the first step. We can't jump the seven steps.
"The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."
Barcelona star Neymar, the focus of so much attention in the build-up to the tournament, said the "time has arrived" that all Brazilians and the whole world have been waiting for.
"We hope that this last day goes by very quickly. I am anxious of course but also I'm extremely happy being where I am today because many people would like to be here," he said.
"I really hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of the players, and Brazilians, which is to win the World Cup."
Neymar said being the best player at the World Cup would mean nothing to him compared with a tournament win on home soil for the first time in Brazil's history.
"We know there will be difficult matches. It's a World Cup so all the games will be decided in little details, so we're preparing ourselves not to make mistakes during the game."
Neymar said Brazil's passionate fans could help carry the team to glory.
"The 12th player and even the main player of the Brazilian squad is the supporters," he said.
"If the supporters are 100 percent on our side during our matches, I think it will be difficult to beat Brazil."
Scolari has the luxury of being able to field the same team that destroyed world champions Spain 3-0 in the final of last year's Confederations Cup, with Neymar the focal point of a powerful and settled line-up. He said he felt his 2014 squad had the same willingness to sacrifice themselves for the team cause as the side that won the 2002 World Cup, featuring the likes of Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
The 61,600-capacity Corinthians Arena, where the match will be held, was delayed by accidents in which three workers were killed.