TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — Luiz Gustavo has the tough job for Brazil at the World Cup.
While Neymar is scoring the goals and grabbing the attention, Gustavo is staying back protecting the defense.
The soft-spoken defensive midfielder knows he gets almost no accolades for his role. Fans are constantly trying to get near the likes of Neymar, Oscar and David Luiz, but Gustavo doesn’t get much adulation.
And he is just fine with that.
“It’s natural,” Gustavo said Wednesday. “I actually think that I need this privacy. I like to live my life this way. I’ll leave the rest to the more popular players. I don’t see any problem with that.”
The Wolfsburg midfielder enters the round of 16 as one of the tournament’s leaders in ball recoveries, with 24 after the first three matches. He is also key to the team’s offense, being in charge of giving freedom to the talented strikers.
“I’m aware of what I need to do to help my teammates and the team,” the 26-year-old Gustavo said. “And that’s what I try to do every day. I’ll be satisfied after a match if I know that I was able to do my best to help the team.”
A former striker, Gustavo said coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has made it clear what he wants from him, so he has no thoughts of venturing much into attack.
“I’m not going to change now, because if I do, I know I’m going to get in trouble,” said Gustavo, who noted that he pushed his luck when he briefly left his defensive role in the match against Cameroon on Monday.
After coming up with one of his trademark steals, he made a run down the left flank and sent a perfect cross for Neymar’s first goal inside the penalty area.
“It worked,” he said. “Otherwise I definitely would have heard from,” Scolari.
Although Gustavo gets little recognition from fans, Scolari and the players know how crucial he is for Brazil.
“Luiz Gustavo doesn’t talk a lot, but his work is fundamental for the team,” Scolari said. “He is one of the players who I trust the most. He is smart and does a good job with what we ask him to do on the field.”
Midfielder Willian added: “Gustavo is our sheriff on defense. It’s a pleasure to see how he plays.”
Gustavo is one of the Brazilian players going into Saturday’s second-round match against Chile with a yellow card, meaning that another yellow will sideline him from the quarterfinals if Brazil advances.
“I’m not going to play concerned about that,” he said. “I’ll do whatever is needed to help my team win this match.”
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