The FIFA Confederations Cup trophy is on a tour of the countries that will be fighting to hoist it aloft in Russia on 2 July. After visiting Australia and New Zealand, it made a stop in Portugal, the home of the reigning European champions, before setting off for the Americas.
During its stay in Portugal, the trophy had a very special minder in the shape of former Brazil star Roberto Carlos. The legendary former left-back played for a season for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, where he also had a short spell as coach. Though he believes Russia will provide a very special atmosphere for the competition, he is undecided as to who he thinks will win it.
FIFA.com: You played in Russia. Can you tell us about the fans there?
Roberto Carlos: They love their football. They adore it. I had the opportunity to play for a team from outside Moscow and our stadium was full for every home game. And then you’ve got teams like Lokomotiv and Spartak, who have big away supports. I think the Confederations Cup and the World Cup itself will help give the people of Russia an even better understanding of the importance of football and what it really represents.
People often think of Russia as a cold country, though that will not be the case in June. What is the Russian summer like?
Hot! We always joked that in Russia you go from 40 below zero to 40 above zero. Summers are very hot. You see a lot of people out in the street enjoying the weather. You have to realise that Russian people really suffer in the winter, which is why they make the most of the heat. Anyone travelling to Russia will like what they see: very welcoming locals and bars full of people. They’ll see how good the atmosphere is.
The Confederations Cup occupies a very special place because it’s the first major title I won with Brazil.
Let’s turn to the competition now. Russia have been drawn in the same group as New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico. How far can they go?
It’s a difficult group, very tough. Playing at home and having the fans behind them will make things difficult for their rivals, though. It’s going to be between Russia, Portugal and Mexico: the Russians because they’re the hosts, Portugal because they’re the European champions and have the best player in the world, and the Mexicans because I know them well and was never on the winning side against them. They’ve got good players and they’re a very fine side.
Who are your favourites for the trophy?
Portugal, Mexico or Germany will win it. They’re three teams I enjoy watching play and they’ve all got great players. We’ll just have to wait until the action starts though.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Javier Hernandez are just some of the great players who’ll be gracing the tournament. Is there anyone you’re looking forward to seeing in particular?
Everyone’s waiting to see Cristiano Ronaldo walk out again in the Portugal shirt. And then there are all the ones you named, of course. They’re all stars. I can’t wait to see what’s going to be a great tournament.
You won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1997. How special is that title out of all your career honours?
Obviously, the World Cup is very different for any player, but the Confederations Cup occupies a very special place because it’s the first major title I won with Brazil.