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   June 20, 2002 | 1320 IST


Umit Davala
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Brazil's quiet midfielder still afloat

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Brazil's Gilberto Silva was thrown in at the deep-end when he was called on to fill the void left by a bizarre training ground injury to captain Emerson on the eve of the World Cup.

Four games later, the softly-spoken player is still very much afloat -- even though he barely gets a mention in the media.

One year ago, Gilberto Silva had barely contemplated playing international soccer.

He was a little known player with Atletico Mineiro who are based in Belo Horizonte -- which, although Brazil's third-largest city, is outside the soccer mainstream of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

But after four games of the World Cup, he is now a key man in Brazil's midfield and has won the full confidence of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

In fact, in a Brazilian team given to all-out attack, many say he is the only man in the midfield, as the two wing-backs and the other two midfielders charge forward in cavalier fashion.

Gilberto Silva had played only five full internationals when he was called on to step in for Emerson, who was ruled out of the tournament after dislocating his shoulder during practice on the eve of the opening match against Turkey.

Emerson was playing in goal in a light-hearted kick-about when he fell awkwardly.

Gilberto Silva has never once appeared over-awed, even though his predecessors in the position were both tough acts to follow -- the snarling, spiky-haired Dunga, captain of the 1994 and 1998 teams and then Emerson, the team's unchallenged leader until his accident.


He admitted to having mixed emotions after being given the chance because of Emerson's misfortune.

"It's a shame, we lost an important player, but the opportunity arises when you least expect it," he said.

"Obviously, it was a bit of a sad way to come into the Cup, but, on the other hand, if I was not ready, another player would be playing. I was the one who was chosen and I tried to make the most of it."

He added: "It was a great responsibility, he's the captain of the team, a player who has a very important, a very important leadership, but I tried to be as relaxed about it as possible. Felipao (Scolari) and the more experienced players passed on a lot of confidence and put me at ease so I could get on with the job."

He admitted he had come a long way in the last year.

"One year ago, I didn't expect this because I was just preparing for the Brazilian championship.

"But as things starting happening for me, I was playing well, Atletico were doing well, so my hopes of playing for Brazil increased.

"As soon as I got my chance, I tried to take advantage of it in the best possible way.

"You always think of playing for Brazil, any player thinks about it, and I was no different. I prepared myself to get to the Brazil team and make the most of it. I just didn't know when it would happen."

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