Gregory Sica
Wednesday January 13th, 2010

When people name their favorites for the World Cup, Brazil comes up every time. The Seleção conjures up images of excitement and artful soccer. With a record five World Cup titles, it's the most successful team as well, and is the favorite to add a sixth crown in South Africa in July.

Over the years, Brazil's success has been defined by two factors: hard work and exceptional talent. While Brazil's squads are generally solid in every aspect, their attack traditionally has been decisive. Legends such as Pelé, Ronaldo, Romário, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho have done their part to ensure Brazil remains at the top.

In South Africa, that legacy is likely to be picked by Sevilla goal machine Luís Fabiano. With 25 goals in 36 matches with Brazil, "O Fabuloso" is more than capable of taking up the responsibility, and the impact he makes in South Africa could be a key factor in how far Brazil goes.

The 29-year-old is aware of the task, and believes that his recent spectacular form has provided him with the necessary confidence to reach his peak at the World Cup. Fabiano recently took time to discuss Brazil's World Cup chances, his incredible scoring run and the reason why he turned down several of Europe's top clubs to remain loyal to Sevilla.

SI.com: That's quite a draw Brazil will face this summer: Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea.

Fabiano: It's definitely one of the most difficult groups. I know Ivory Coast very well, because three players from its squad are teammates of mine at Sevilla [Didier Zokora, Koffi Romaric and Arouna Koné]. They have a very strong and fast squad. Portugal has great players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who is one of the best in the world. The only team I don't know much about is North Korea.

SI.com: Of the three teams, which is the most dangerous and why?

Fabiano: I think Portugal, because it has several great players and is a team that's more accustomed to participating in major competitions like the World Cup.

SI.com: It seems as if Brazil's current squad has fewer superstars than it did in the 2006 World Cup. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Fabiano: The stars don't always win titles. I think the most important thing is the group, unity and competitiveness, and the Brazilian national team has demonstrated this in the last few years.

SI.com: With a teammate blessed with the talent of Kaká, are things much easier on the field?

Fabiano: Without any doubt. He is a player with great vision of the game -- he provides superb balls to the forwards so that they can score goals. As well as that, I have a good understanding with him, because we played together at São Paulo in 2001 and '02.

SI.com: Besides Brazil, which other teams do you feel are candidates to win the World Cup?

Fabiano: Italy and Germany, who both have tradition at World Cups, and then Spain, which has a great team and is playing very well.

SI.com: With five goals, you finished atop the Confederations Cup scoring charts, essentially helping Brazil win the title. Did that tournament give you more confidence ahead of the World Cup?

Fabiano: The entire year of '09 was excellent for me, and it gave me loads of confidence. The Confederations Cup was perhaps the most important moment, because we won the title and the team performed very well. Confidence is one thing I don't lack today.

SI.com: In the South American World Cup qualifiers, how did it feel to score two crucial goals against Argentina in Rosario, giving Brazil a historic victory that sealed World Cup qualification?

Fabiano: It was a magical moment. We played at the stadium of our rivals, with a totally unfavorable atmosphere, but we were superior both technically and mentally. It was great to score two goals and to help Brazil win the match, which guaranteed us of World Cup qualification.

SI.com: For many, you're the successor to Ronaldo on the national team. As much as that's an honor, does that give you added pressure?

Fabiano: I always say, to wear the No. 9 shirt of the national team -- which was worn by great players like Ronaldo, Romário, Careca and many others -- is great motivation and it forces you to play with more pride and confidence and it pushes you to perform at your best. Pressure will always exist, but I'm already used to dealing with it.

SI.com: What do think the chances are of Ronaldo being your strike-partner in South Africa?

Fabiano: I think all the strikers who are passing through a good moment have chances of being called up. But I prefer to leave that decision to coach Dunga.

SI.com: Despite missing some time with an ankle injury, you're in great form with Sevilla this season with eight goals. Is finishing the season as Spain's top scorer one of your goals?

Fabiano: That was one of my objectives at the start of the season, but it's more difficult, because I missed lots of matches because of my injury. Despite that, I'll fight right until the end.

SI.com: Sevilla topped its group in the Champions League, but what can we expect from the round-of-16 matchup with CSKA Moscow in February?

Fabiano: Even if we're going through a difficult period with lots of ups and downs, I think Sevilla has great chances of advancing to the quarterfinals. But we need to respect CSKA and have to enter both matches very focused.

SI.com: Several big clubs such as AC Milan, Juventus and Chelsea have been after you, but you decided to stay at Sevilla. Why?

Fabiano: To tell you the truth, it wasn't my decision. I have a contract with Sevilla until 2011 and the interested clubs have to negotiate with Sevilla. From the clubs that you mentioned, the only one that made an official proposal was Milan, but Sevilla considered the offer too low and the negotiations broke down.

SI.com: Who were your soccer idols growing up?

Fabiano: My idol was Romário. In 1994, I was only 13 years old and I followed his performances at the World Cup. He was my player then and I went on to admire him.

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