If ever there was a sign that Brazil were not feeling the enormous pressure weighing heavily on their shoulders, it was the manner in which they celebrated Philippe Coutinho’s 26th birthday on Tuesday.
As the squad trained in the blistering heat in Sochi, the players took it upon themselves to lighten the mood by covering the Barcelona playmaker in eggs and flour, as is tradition in Brazil.
Neymar and Gabriel Jesus were the prime instigators, rounding on Coutinho during the session. The Paris Saint-Germain star launched the flour before his strike partner Jesus cracked open an egg on Coutinho’s head as he lay there helpless while his team-mates erupted with laughter.
The celebrations descended into a free-for-all when Thiago Silva turned on Neymar and hurled an egg at him, certainly the sort of relaxed atmosphere Tite hoped to create ahead of the biggest tournament in football.
With temperatures set to tip 30 degrees for the opening round of fixtures in Russia, Brazil are keeping it cool in their final preparations.
Tite on put his Brazil side through their paces in the sun, but the players were afforded some respite underneath the sprinklers at the Yug-Sport Stadium.
Neymar, who will hope to spearhead Brazil’s bid for a sixth World Cup win, led the host of Selecao players, who appeared in an unerringly calm and upbeat mood ahead of what promises to be a scintillating tournament.
Back in February, the Neymar lay crumpled in a heap on the floor during a game against Marseille after he sustained a fractured metatarsal.
The 26-year-old’s World Cup hopes were shrouded in uncertainty and the images which followed were those of pain and concern as he was carried off on a stretcher.
Skip forward to Tuesday, just two days before the World Cup begins and five days before Brazil’s opener against Switzerland, and Neymar was the picture of happiness, content with harbouring the responsibility of a football-obsessed nation.
He made his comeback in Brazil’s World Cup warm-up friendly against Croatia and scored a spectacular goal off the bench at Anfield earlier this month.
The forward smiled, waved to the fans who had flocked to the stadium and joked around with his friends in the star-studded squad during the light training session, while Tite kept a watchful eye over his talisman.
A similar mood after Sunday evening’s clash with Switzerland will do just the trick for the Brazil boss.