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Why Philippe Coutinho’s boyhood dream is coming true

Talking exclusively to Debonair, FC Barcelona and Brazil star forward Philippe Coutinho shows why he was made for the big stage

In order to play well, you have to prepare physically, but to be a great man you must be mentally strong — Philippe Coutinho

As the ball left the Brazilian no. 11’s right boot you just knew it was going to nestle into the back of the net. Set way outside the keeper’s left post, the ball curled majestically, kissed the post and set the net rippling. Cue explosive Brazilian celebrations. (Watch the goal here.)

Coutinho’s goal was a marvel; a thing of intrinsic beauty, and dare we say it ‘art’ that sport can often produce out of nowhere and leave you speechless: Not a bad way for the 26-year-old to kick-start his World Cup campaign.

Talking to Debonair, Coutinho says that representing his country on the grandest footballing stage the world has to offer is the result of years of dedication, motivation and an absolute certainty that he would achieve his boyhood dream.

“I have become the player I am today through hard work. I have dreamed of becoming a soccer player since I was a little boy, so it is a dream come true,” the Barcelona midfielder says.

“My parents have supported me throughout this journey, and they were always by my side. But there are also other players that have inspired me, like Ronaldinho Gaucho.”

In order to play well, you have to prepare physically, but to be a great man you must be mentally strong — Philippe Coutinho

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Like Countinho, Ronaldino also played for the Spanish giants Barca and wore the no. 11 Brazilian jersey: a role model whose legacy Countinho is beginning to live up to.

The pressure that comes with wearing the famous yellow jersey donned by Pele, Ronaldo and Romario — who also famously wore the number 11 jersey Coutinho has claimed as his own — is unlike any other kind of footballing pressure.

Every time Brazil take to the pitch, there’s a weight of expectation that they will not just win handsomely, but do so with a panache and spirit that has become the Brazilian way since Pele and the teams of the ‘70s transformed football into a sporting fiesta.

“Lots of fans thing Brazil are going to win easily and score lots of goals,” Coutinho said after the Switzerland fixture, adding the cautionary caveat, “All games are difficult. All games are like a final, even more so in the World Cup.”

After a successful stint at Liverpool before moving onto FC Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho’s footballing talent and undeniable class has long been lauded as one of the finest on the planet.

Now, having scored the Seleção’s opener and one of the most stunning goals at the World Cup so far, Coutinho is showing himself to be comfortable on football’s grandest stage — not overawed by the occasion or the shadow of his teammate and the world’s most expensive footballer, Neymar Jnr.

To deliver the swashbuckling football fans expect and to channel the Brazilian vibe, Coutinho has a ritual that evokes the culture of the Seleção’s, of players past and present. “I listen to Brazilian music to focus and get into the right mind-set,” the Hugo Boss brand ambassador says.

“In order to play well, you have to prepare physically, but to be a great man you must be mentally strong. I work hard on this — before games I visualise what might happen and I spend a lot of time training.”

Despite failing to win their opening game against Switzerland (the game ended in a 1-1 draw), Countiho, Neymar Jnr. and company will be expected to, and are still favourites to bring the World Cup trophy home to Brazil for a record sixth time after the disappointment of being hammered by Germany 7-1 in the semi-final of the tournament that they hosted in 2014.

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