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Brazil vs Colombia World Cup 2014 preview: Want latest Brazil team secrets? Join Instagram

Millions of followers get fun and spontaneous views of life in the Selecao

They are multimillionaire footballers who have family and staff to look after all their personal affairs. But there is one job that the superstars of the Brazil national team like to do themselves: post pictures on Instagram.

If you want to see Neymar hanging out with his girlfriend on rest days, David Luiz pulling a silly face in the pool, Daniel Alves playing the drums in the team aeroplane or have ever been curious as to the decor in Hulk’s bedroom, then you all you need to do is follow these players’ feeds on the photo-sharing site.

Brazilian footballers have embraced Instagram as their social media of choice and it is enabling them to interact directly with fans in an unprecedented way. Many footballers from other countries also use the site but not with the same intensity, volume and irreverence as the Brazilians. Six of the top 10 World Cup footballers with the highest number of followers are Brazilian. In first place is Neymar, with 7.3 million followers.

Since the beginning of the World Cup, the Brazil players have posted more than 200 photos on Instagram, usually selfies, stock photos with inspirational messages and short videos of life in the training camp. I doubt that any team in World Cup history has revealed such an intimate portrait of what goes on behind the scenes while the tournament is still on-going. Of Brazil’s starting XI, all the players are active on Instagram apart from goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but his wife Susana Werner more than makes up for this with dozens of posts.

There is an appealing amateurishness to the Brazilians’ images compared to the feeds of other top players, like Cristiano Ronaldo, (in second place with 6m followers), which is almost all advertising and promotional shots. The Brazilians’ shots are just like the selfies everyone takes – a sorrir (smile) for the camera – with the effect that they come across like they’re your mates. It is also refreshing (and rather amazing, considering how tightly clubs control their players) to read captions written by the players that haven’t been sanitised by their press officers. Alves, for example, writes in an effervescent stream-of-consciousness prose like a street preacher.

Almost always, the Brazilians write exclusively in Portuguese, even though most of them play for clubs in countries where the language is not understood. The captions, replete with emoticons, slang and stylised misspellings, are full of references to other players, to their families and messages to fans. In the last few days, Neymar’s posts have been getting more than a million “likes”, and almost 100,000 comments each.

Instagram has become an important source of information about the Brazil team. “Everything Neymar posts will be reproduced all over the web. I don’t think that any one of his posts has ever gone unnoticed,” says journalist Pedro Scapin, whose role at Brazil’s daily sports paper Lance! is to monitor the social media feeds of players, clubs and federations. He agrees that the Brazilians use Instagram spontaneously. “I don’t think they are doing what their clubs or their sponsors are telling them to do. Normally it is just them taking a picture of what they are doing at that moment.”

Fernandinho posts a picture underwater

The Brazilian players also have accounts on Facebook and Twitter but their feeds on these sites don’t feel as fresh and anarchic as what appears on Instagram – possibly because they are controlled by their staff. In Neymar’s case that is certainly true after he was sued by a referee who was slandered in one of his tweets.

The national team’s use of Instagram reflects a disproportionate enthusiasm for social media in Brazil. According to internet analytics firm ComScore, the time spent on social media per visitor in Brazil is more than double the world average. A decade ago Brazilians were addicted to the social media site Orkut, well before Facebook became established in Britain.

Gugu Ketzer, one of Brazil’s top advertising executives, says that Instagram is a perfect fit for the Brazilian personality. “We have this thing in our culture anyway that we like to share things in our life. We love to share and we love to have friends, to be in a community. We are not like Americans and Europeans who like to have a preserved space. We open our doors, always.”

David Luiz posing with kids at a swimming pool

Instagram is easier to engage with than other social media since it is about  pictures rather than words. It also plays in to the Brazilian love of showing off – here vanity is seen as a positive quality. “The selfie is so Brazilian,” Ketzer adds.