Gilberto Silva: I'm still good enough for Brazil

Published Jun. 10, 2010 5:13 p.m. EDT

Gilberto Silva has arrived at his third World Cup trying to prove he can still be useful for Brazil.

The 33-year-old defensive midfielder is one of Brazil's most experienced players, but remains one of the most criticized by the fans and local media.

Although Gilberto Silva has been important for Brazil recently, many still think the Panathinaikos player is past his prime and should've given way to younger players on Dunga's squad for the tournament.

``I've been heavily criticized at times, it's true,'' Gilberto Silva said. ``But to be honest, It doesn't make me mad. It actually gives me motivation. The motivation I have now comes from this criticism against me.''


Gilberto Silva's success with the Brazilian team is unquestionable. Besides winning the 2002 World Cup, he also helped Brazil win the 2005 and 2009 Confederations Cups, and the 2007 Copa America, when he was the team's captain. In the warmup match against Tanzania on Monday he played his 93rd game Brazil, surpassing all-time great Pele.

But he remains one of the least talked about players on the squad, even when the team is missing several stars, as it is now.

Gilberto Silva complains that many fans and parts of the local media usually categorize him as ``old'' instead of ``experienced,'' something he doesn't see used to describe many other top international players.

``When they talk about (Sebastian) Veron, they say how much his experience will help Argentina,'' he said. ``That's not the case for me.''

Having enjoyed the glory of 2002 and disappointment of 2006, Gilberto Silva feels he can help Brazil's newcomers. Coach Dunga left many stars off the team and picked several lesser-known players who have shown their full commitment to the national squad.

``I have no doubt that my experience in these past World Cups will help,'' Gilberto Silva said. ``I already know how it is and I can pass what I have learned to the other players. The motivation I have for this competition is the same. It's like I'm playing in my first World Cup.''

Gilberto Silva started every match when Brazil won the title in 2002 in South Korea and Japan, with performances that brought a contract with Arsenal and established him as one of the top defensive midfielders in the world.

He left Arsenal in 2008, unhappy because coach Arsene Wenger didn't appoint him permanent captain after striker Thierry Henry left for Barcelona.

Dunga asked Gilberto Silva to be Brazil's captain ahead of the 2010 World Cup, but the midfielder didn't think it would be fair to former leader Lucio. Gilberto Silva was only appointed captain at the 2007 Copa America because Lucio didn't play.

``I had gone through a difficult experience myself with Arsenal, and I told that to Dunga,'' Gilberto Silva said. ``Lucio is the captain.''

Lucio and Gilberto Silva each arrive at the World Cup with 93 matches with Brazil, by far the most among all 23 players on the squad in South Africa.

The elegant midfielder is not known for his scoring and says he doesn't try to move forward too much to keep from ``getting in the strikers' way.'' But he wouldn't mind finding the net at the World Cup, especially after surpassing Pele's mark with the national team.

``Unfortunately, I don't play in the same position that Pele used to play,'' Gilberto Silva said. ``But maybe I'll have a chance to score one of those nice goals he used to score all the time. Who knows?''