Brazil star Dante relishing England, Rooney clash
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Mainz' Shawn Parker, center, challenges for the ball with Munich's Dante, right, and Toni Kroos during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FSV Mainz 05 and FC Bayern Munich in Mainz, central Germany, Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. AP photoHaving helped Bayern Munich set a new defensive record, Brazilian centre-back Dante is relishing his chance to make his international debut against England and dangerman Wayne Rooney on Wednesday.
With his flamboyant hair style, coolness under pressure and ability to launch counter-attacks from the back, Dante has been the rock in a Munich defence which has shipped just seven goals in 20 league matches, a new German record.
The 29-year-old Dante Bonfim Costa Santos is set to make his international debut at Wembley having finally achieved his goal of a Brazil call-up, a year before his country hosts the World Cup.
"I've taken the first step. I want to seize this chance and show my qualities," he said after catching the eye of Brazil coach Felipe Scolari.
Having been part of the Borussia Moenchengladbach team which only narrowly avoided relegation in 2011, Dante's towering displays helped turn 'Gladbach into title-contenders last season to finish fourth.
Plucked by Bayern to strengthen their back four, the Brazilian has been a revelation this season, playing in all 20 league games.
Having waited so long for his Brazil chance, Dante is targeting a regular place, starting by helping to beat England, and is relishing the prospect of potentially facing England striker Wayne Rooney.
"I'm really pleased to have got the call and I'm looking forward to the prospect (of facing Rooney)," he said.
"He's a world-class striker - a high quality player. His movement is fantastic. He's got everything. You have to be right on your game against those sort of players because they can turn a game in a flash." With Brazil hosting the Confederations Cup this year, then the 2014 World Cup, Dante said his goal is to make himself part of Scolari's plans to capture a sixth world title.
"I'm aiming high. There's no way I'll ease back now, I'll work even harder and try and make a convincing case for myself," he said.
Naturally, Dante will do everything within his power to realise his dream and Bayern's head coach Jupp Heynckes has been heard to shout: "Go on, do it for Brazil!" just to give him that extra incentive in training.
Having cost Bayern 4.8 million euros ($6.5m), Dante has slotted seemlessly into Bayern's defence and has a big year still ahead of him with ex-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to replace Heynckes on July 1 for next season.
Bayern have a commanding 12-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga and face Arsenal in the Champions League last 16 later this month, so Dante says Guardiola's arrival is far from his mind.
"We're not thinking about what Guardiola might think of us. We want to concentrate on winning the title," he said.
Bayern have not won any silverware for two seasons, something the Bavarians are desperate to change, but the Brazilian insists his side are not worried about their rivals.
"We're not looking at the rest of the table. We just want to win every game," he said.