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
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried