Willian starts in Brazil's late show
Willian featured for Brazil as they scored two late goals to secure their first victory at the World Cup against Costa Rica.
It’s not unusual to walk past a local park or open space and see children playing football, re-enacting the scenario of a World Cup final.
Jumpers for goalposts, a patch of grass and a ball. Their imagination will do the rest.
It’s nothing new and it’s probably something you’ve done yourself before, one time or another.
For one Chelsea man, it’s a similar scenario. Only this summer, he will be hoping to recreate it for real at the Luzhniki Stadium and not just on a patch of grass.
‘When I was a kid, I dreamed of wearing the Selecao shirt in a World Cup,’ said Willian, who is in Russia as part of the Brazil squad.
‘I would always be found kicking a ball around in the streets or outside my house with my family. I would pretend we were playing in a World Cup final and things like this and stay out for hours just playing.
‘I think that’s where I learnt to play but us Brazilians, we are naturals. We seem to already have the instincts to play and football is just a game we are born to love. We try to do skills, try to put the ball through people’s legs!
‘I enjoyed playing with my friends and family out on the streets and it was fun, I think that’s where I learned to play with a smile on my face.
‘Having played in my first World Cup was already a dream come true. Now I will be able to play in a second one, an opportunity few people get.
‘I’m looking forward to the tournament and like a lot of people, we have to go there with the best expectations of ourselves. I think we did a great job in the qualifiers and we have to follow in the same way in the World Cup, because we are on the right track.
‘I think we will do well but it's hard to pinpoint favourites in a tournament like this because there are so many great sides involved. There are four or five teams, including Brazil, which can reach the same level.’
One thing that’s noticeable about Willian is the warm smile which is often on his face. Whether he’s playing in a Champions League clash or talking to you in a quiet corner room at Cobham, his smile remains the same. He believes it’s important to be happy in life to get the maximum out of it, in whatever you do. And he says that smile will be coming with him to Russia this summer.
‘You have to enjoy the game and when you’re happy, you can play better and better,' he says. 'You need strong characters in the dressing room too, to keep everyone happy, relaxed and at ease in between games. We have a lot of good guys in the squad and we all get on well, so that will help us prepare for the games ahead.
‘It will be a difficult tournament but we must remain focused on the task in hand. The World Cup is a tournament that practically does not allow errors, especially in the final.
‘From the last World Cup, we've learned the good and the bad sides of the tournament, and the moment we were eliminated was such a tough feeling for us.
‘This time my expectation is that we can experience only the good side, we want to go to Russia and try and lift the title. Of course, this is our dream.’
Place of birth: Ribeirao Pires
First cap: v Gabon, November 2011
Honours: South American Youth Football Championship winners, 2007
Did you know? Willian and his Chelsea team-mate, David Luiz, grew up together in close proximity of one another in Brazil and have been friends since childhood.