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Sports

AFP
June 13, 2018

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Alisson focused on Brazil’s World Cup quest

SOCHI, Russia: Brazil goalkeeper Alisson played down speculation over his club future on Tuesday as he lives “a boyhood dream” at the World Cup in Russia.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment since the start of the season and I don’t want anything to mess it up,” the 25-year-old Roma star told journalists at the Brazil team’s training ground in Sochi.“I’m focused 100 percent on training here. My representative is dealing with all questions along with Roma.”

Alisson has enjoyed an outstanding season with the Serie A club, helping them reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they lost to Liverpool. It is the Anfield side who have been most heavily linked with an approach for him this close season, as they step up their search for a top-class replacement for Loris Karius.

The German’s blunders cost Liverpool dear in their Champions League final defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, who have also been linked with an approach for Alisson.The transfer speculation comes as Alisson and his national team colleagues prepare for their opening game at the World Cup against Switzerland on Sunday.

He is set to start in goal, with coach Tite preferring him to Manchester City’s Ederson.“We need to be focused and try not to read the news too much, not worry about all the speculation but focus on what is real, although at this moment nothing official has arrived,” Alisson said when asked how he and his Brazil team-mates deal with transfer rumours.

“My focus is here. I have a contract with Roma and I am very happy there in Italian football and in Rome.“But mainly I am happy here with the national team, living a boyhood dream and working very hard to win the World Cup.”

Brazil attracted an army of excited youngsters — including one who managed to get onto the pitch for a selfie — as they held their first training session on Russian soil ahead of the World Cup on Tuesday. Around 5,000 locals turned out to watch the relaxed session at the Yug-Sport Stadium, next to the Brazilian squad’s hotel in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Tuesday is a national holiday in Russia and many fans opted for vantage points along the road leading to the stadium, while others filled the stand in blazing sunshine.

One young boy broke through security barriers and managed to get close to a group of Brazil players including Neymar, taking a photograph before being led away.However, most fans contented themselves with chanting the name of the world’s most expensive player, who arrived with his teammates in Russia in the early hours of Monday fresh from scoring in a 3-0 friendly win over Austria in Vienna. The 222-million-euro ($261 million) Paris Saint-Germain forward made his first start in that game since undergoing surgery on a foot fracture at the start of March. He had come off the bench to score in the win over Croatia in Liverpool a week earlier.

“Neymar is doing great, thanks to God. I think the way the whole process has been dealt with was perfect. He has fully recovered,” goalkeeper Alisson told reporters.

“It’s logical that, at first, when he started kicking the ball again, he felt the need to take extra care of himself.“He has had to deal with the fear, which is normal after a serious injury, but step by step he has built up his confidence.”

Members of the Selecao had a treat in store for Philippe Coutinho at training, marking the Barcelona midfielder’s 26th birthday by pinning him to the ground, breaking an egg over his head and covering him in flour. Those who started the final pre-World Cup warm-up against Austria spent most of Tuesday’s session apart from the rest of Tite’s squad, while Manchester United-bound midfielder Fred was not involved as he continues to nurse an ankle injury. Eager to put their humiliation on home soil in 2014 firmly behind them, the Brazilians appear confident and at ease in surroundings which in this lush part of Russia are not completely unlike home. “Our first impressions are positive, with the beauty of the city and the beach, and to be able to have lunch with views looking out over the sea,” added Alisson.

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