Brazil begin World Cup journey tonight at Wembley

Neymar and some familiar faces start the process of trying to win the ultimate prize on home soil at Wembley

Brazil, ranked an absurd 18th in the world by Fifa, begin the long march back to the summit of the game at the home of football. Where better to lay down your credentials as custodians of the sport's highest values than Wembley, the mother country's enduring gift to the world? Returning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has assembled an eclectic bag of tricks for his first game back in charge. Ronaldinho is resurrected more than a year into what he thought was international retirement to steer the Selecao towards the goal of World Cup glory at home alongside the nation's new great hope, Neymar.

It is incumbent on Brazil to produce a talent beyond the imagination, to deliver a player who merits the label "best in the world". At 32, Ronaldinho long ago ceded that mantle to Lionel Messi, but in Neymar, 21 on Tuesday, he sees a player capable of breasting that tape. "He has time to do whatever he wants in football," Ronaldinho said. "He is the idol in Brazil, our best player. The difference is that at his age, I was already in Europe, and he can continue in Brazil."

There was a cake and a hug for the freshly minted key holder, surely the first global superstar to turn 21 on the playing fields of Barnet, where Brazil prepared for tonight's gala game. Despite his tender years and delayed departure for Europe, Neymar's YouTube catalogue has kept the world well briefed on his progress. An enhanced TV deal in Brazil has enabled Santos to hold on to their biggest asset, despite covetous glances from the usual suspects in Europe. It is said he is bound for Barcelona, a deft accoutrement to the genius Messi. Ronaldinho, an old Nou Camp doyen himself, is happy to indulge that idea. "Of course I imagine that he [Messi] and Neymar can play together. They are among the best players in the world. It would be wonderful to watch them."

Neymar is flattered by the acclaim, though denies any association with Barça. "It is nice when I hear top players say I will be the best player in the world. It is important to stay humble, but I have to believe that I can be the best in the world. I know I have the talent to be, I just need to carry on working hard. I am happy at Santos and am not even thinking about leaving. When the time comes I will consider all offers from big clubs in Europe. But any talk that I have already committed to a club is not true."

He was less complimentary about Brazil's hosts tonight. England, he believes, rely too much on our own talisman. "England are a good team with very good players but I don't look at them as one of our main rivals for the World Cup," Neymar said. "They have the players to do well but do I think they have the same quality as Spain and Argentina? No. I think maybe they rely on Wayne Rooney. In Brazil we have many players who can win the game. The same with Argentina if Messi is not having a great game they still have [Sergio] Aguero and [Carlos] Tevez. With Spain if [Andres] Iniesta is having a bad game they have Xavi and [David] Villa. Once you look past Rooney you don't see an obvious player who can win them a game."

Fantasy comes as standard with Brazil yet, officially at least, this is the worst Brazilian team since the introduction of rankings 18 years ago. For 12 years Brazil were ranked No 1. Ronaldinho last delivered any kind of authority at a major international tournament in 2006. He did not feature in the 2010 World Cup and thought his time was past until Scolari was reappointed in November. His selection tonight is, therefore, at least as interesting as Neymar's following a highly acclaimed return to domestic football with Atletico Mineiro.

"I have worked with most of the coaching staff before. That is an advantage," Ronaldinho said. "It makes things easier. I know that they are all champions, and that they are very professional. I don't see age as a problem, it is a positive factor. We all know the path to victory. I am ready to help, however I can. Like everyone here, I live for football and for the national team. I have always made myself available.

"My first game with any national team was here, in London, against England. I said to Julio [Cesar] before, that the last time we were here together it was for one of the junior national sides – we were 15 or 16 – and it is something really special. I have a special fondness for Felipao [Scolari]. I know how he works, and I know what he wants me to do. I have to show that I belong here. That is my aim."

Scolari met his squad for the first time on Tuesday. With the World Cup in Brazil less than 18 months away he dismissed any idea that tonight's fixture will be friendly in nature despite being a part of the FA's 150th birthday celebrations.

"This is about gathering people behind us, to integrate fans and people with us for our big goal, which is being champion in 2014 in hour home country. We are the country to host the World Cup. We've already lost one at home so now it's our turn to win it and that's our big goal."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable