Alves targets flying start in Brazil's opening match
Brazils Dani Alves targets flying start in opening match against Croatia
Barcelona defender hoping to send a message to fans
I think its the most important game of the World Cup
Brazil are looking to send a message to supporters and rivals in the World Cups opening match, the right-back Dani Alves said on Monday, raising the stakes for the game against Croatia.
A lacklustre 1-0 win over Serbia in Fridays warm-up 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 nations 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. Its not just about three points, it should also send a message to future rivals.
I think its the most important game of the World Cup, along with the final.
The national team has long had a testy relationship with 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 were playing at home ... Im 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 São 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 before 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 its a gift to see the fans, our people, now understand that the Cup has arrived in Brazil and its 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.