• Zenit Saint Petersburg's Giuliano hoping for more playing time with Seleção
  • Midfielder shares his impressions after a year in the next World Cup Host Country
  • Explains why Brazil shouldn’t rest on their laurels after qualifying for Russia 2018

"So many legends have worn the No10..."

Though not a regular starter with the Brazil national team, 27-year old Giuliano has already enjoyed quite an honour as part of the Seleção squad.

During the South Americans' friendlies against Argentina and Australia in June this year, winning his 12th and 13th caps, Giuliano was handed the No10 shirt so revered by Brazilian footballers and fans. It is a distinction he now shares with the likes of Pele, Zico, Rivaldo and Neymar, among other legendary figures. Fittingly, he earned an assist inside the first minute of the latter.

“The coach [Tite] called me to say he was offering me the No10 for these matches and asked me how I felt. Obviously, I said it was a great honour for me. You can’t pass up that kind of opportunity, even it implies huge responsibility. I hung it on my wall afterwards to remember those games.”

‘Brazil mustn’t rest on their laurels’
After Tite took up the coaching reins, Brazil went on a scintillating run in Russia 2018 qualifying, winning eight consecutive games to clinch an early World Cup berth. Giuliano said it was abundantly clear how he managed to achieve it.

“We’ve a lot of talented players who are individually strong," he stated. "Tite’s secret is that he added perfect team spirit and camaraderie to the mix. What’s more, South America is the toughest zone to qualify from, as you can see with Argentina currently outside the direct qualifying berths and possibly needing an intercontinental play-off to reach Russia. That’s what it’s like in our qualifying tournament”.

And while Brazil could take their foot off the throttle in their final four qualifiers against Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Chile, Giuliano warned against that.

“Brazil definitely cannot rest on their laurels and give away points to those who need them. On the contrary, the fact that we’ve already qualified places extra responsibility on us. We need to improve further. If we lose once or twice, then all the self-confidence that we’ve sought for so long could disappear in a flash. We can’t afford for that to happen.”

Asked about his side’s prospects in Russia, Giuliano replied: “Brazil are always among the favourites – we’re pentacampeões (five-time winners). Our prospects of winning another title in Russia are good, as the squad is currently enjoying a very good period.

“After our failure on home soil in 2014, people turned their backs on the team for a while and didn’t even want to watch our matches. However, it's different now. After we found our game again and results improved, the fans came back to the stadiums. They support us and are happy for us. What more do you need to win?”

South American pecking order
To date, five of the attacking midfielder's cap have come since his move to Zenit in 2016. “I never know whether or not the coach will name me in the squad, although I’m sure he will if I perform well with Zenit.” 

They are currently under new management and recently appointed a new head coach in Roberto Mancini. There have been plenty of squad changes too, with frequent news stories about the coming and goings. At present, there are two Brazilians at the club (Giuliano and Hernani), as well as two Argentinians – Leandro Paredes and Sebastian Driussi – who recently joined the squad.

“Everyone knows there’s an intense rivalry between Brazil and Argentina,” he added. “I still want to see Argentina at the World Cup next year, as it wouldn’t be a proper tournament without them. However, I’ve not yet started teasing the new Argentinian lads about their national team. I’ll let them settle into the side first, gauge their sense of humour, and then I’ll remind them who the top dogs in South America currently are,” he said with a laugh.

‘The St. Petersburg stadium is great’
Giuliano has already played three times at the new St. Petersburg stadium, which was purpose built for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 World Cup. So, who better than the player to assess it and the city where he has spent the last year?

“I’m in love with St. Petersburg. There are loads of nice places to take a walk, beautiful parks, restaurants, museums… The Hermitage is one of the biggest museums in the world, I believe. I didn’t have time to go through all its rooms, naturally, but I tell everybody about it and always advise them to visit.

“It’s a bit difficult for me to talk about other Russian cities, as I’ve mostly seen their hotels and stadiums... By the way, there are lots of new stadiums, and that’s nice. I believe that Russia will host a very good World Cup.

“The Saint Petersburg Stadium is great. When we first played there, there were some problems with the pitch, but they changed the turf and we’ve already seen how much better it is now. The atmosphere during the last game was fantastic –  lots of fans, incredible support, and we heard them loud and clear," he concluded. "I’m delighted we’ll now be playing there."