SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Barely two months ago, Brazilian right back Fagner did not know if he would even be at this World Cup but now he is first choice and following in the footsteps of giants.
In some countries playing at right back is one of the most unheralded jobs but in Brazil, where players like Cafu and Carlos Alberto have given the position a special meaning, Fagner now finds himself the unexpected heir to their throne.
The Corinthians player was one of two full backs tipped as cover for first-choice Dani Alves but Fagner’s chances were hit when he tweaked a thigh muscle in a league game in April.
However, he recovered in time and an injury to Alves guaranteed his place in the squad. Then an injury to Danilo in Brazil’s first game against Switzerland saw him win his fifth cap against Costa Rica in last week’s 2-0 win.
The 28-year old brushed aside concerns that the level of the Brazilian league would not prepare him for the World Cup Finals and said he was more than ready for Brazil’s crucial third Group E game with Serbia on Wednesday.
“The level that you have in training here with Brazil is enough to calm you,” he said. “You know that when you face Neymar, Douglas Costa, Willian, Taison, that high level prepares you for any kind of game situation.”
“We all know how important this is, how important qualification is. We know the responsibility we have in this game, we know it will be a tough match, technically, physically and mentally.”
Brazil’s long history of marauding defenders charging down the right flank to score great goals is not lost on Fagner, who is known as a more conservative type of player.
Carlos Alberto is deified in Brazil for captaining the peerless 1970 team to glory in Mexico and Cafu is similarly revered for two decades of performances that peaked with him holding the World Cup aloft in 2002.
Fagner is a long way from that level yet but he declared himself ready to assume the responsibility that the storied right back role demands.
“I know some of the great players that have played right back for Brazil and my aim is always to get better every day and, God willing, I will leave my name in history,” Fagner said.
Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ian Chadband