Dubai: Brazil World Cup winner Kaka believes his nation can lift the iconic trophy when the most anticipated sports tournament gets under way in Qatar this November.
In an exclusive chat with Gulf News at the Coca Cola Arena, where the World Cup trophy tour is kicking off its global journey starting here in Dubai, the former AC Milan and Real Madrid attacking midfielder is confident Brazil can go all the way.
He was just 20 years old when he won the World Cup at the 2002 event and now at 40 he has some wise words of advice for the many youngsters who will be representing their nations in the Middle East.
“The World Cup is something really special because you never know if you are going to be there,” says the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner. “If your country is going to be there the question is in what condition will the team be? It’s really special because it creates this amazing moment of a player’s career. So for the young players that have this opportunity I would advise them to just take advantage of that because it is unique.”
France are the current World Cup champions and Kaka believes Paris Saint-Germain’s 23-year-old star Kylian Mbappe will be a big threat in the tournament. “Mbappe has already won the tournament in 2018 and it is a great chance for him to play again at the World Cup and to try to win it again.”
In fact, Kaka, widely considered one of the best players of his generation, believes the European and South American teams will be the front runners to lift the coveted trophy. England have been tipped to go all the way - just as they did at Euro 2020 - but this time Italy will not be around to stop them from winning it. You can never discount the Germans while and Argentina will be there or there abouts too but Kaka, who made his professional club debut at age 18 at Sao Paulo in 2001, feels there could be a giant-killer. “If we talk about favourites, then yes I believe it will be most of the European and South American teams. But in every World Cup there are always one or two nations that cause an upset so we will see who that is this time.”
It will be a fascinating time to have a World Cup what with it starting during the middle of the European season but Kaka, who played 92 times for Brazil and scored 29 goals, reckons it could be the best tournament of all time. “I think it will be very interesting because most of the World Cup’s came at the end of the season in Europe where most of the players play. Now it will be held during the middle of the season so most of the players will be very fresh, the conditions will be really nice, the weather will not be so hot and so in my opinion the quality of the game will be much better than the other tournaments. I think we will see some really intense games.”
Ronaldo can keep playing
After a spell Orlando City, Kaka announced his retirement from football in 2017 at the age of 36 – the same age Cristiano Ronaldo currently is. But he believes the Portuguese star could even have another World Cup after the Qatar tournament. “It’s hard to say if it is Ronaldo’s last World Cup because he always manages to find some extra motivation for something that he really wants to achieve in his career and he is super fit. But for him - and Lionel Messi too - I think every fan wants to see them play and whether or not it is their last tournament we will have to wait and see.”
There will be plenty of attackers in top form at the tournament gunning for the Golden Boot from England’s Harry Kane to Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku while Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski, two players at the latter stages of their career, will also be amongst the goals. But Kaka is tipping a fellow countryman to shine. “I hope it is one of the Brazilians so I’ll say Neymar,” he says.
Brazil appear to be the resounding favourites to win the tournament and he reckons the PSG star can guide the team all the way. “I hope he can help them to win the World Cup and score a lot of goals and achieve something really special with the national team.”