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Brazil aim to make Champions League class pay off in World Cup glory bid

A Press Association Sport study reveals Brazil’s Russia 2018 stars were the most heavily involved in the elite club competition.

Brazil boast more recent Champions League experience than even the leading European nations at this summer’s World Cup.

The 23 players selected by Tite collectively played 12,255 minutes in Europe’s elite competition in 2017-18, led by Roma goalkeeper Alisson with 1,080.

Liverpool v AS Roma – UEFA Champions League – Semi Final – First Leg – Anfield
Brazil keeper Alisson helped Roma to the Champions League semi-finals (Peter Byrne/PA)

Press Association Sport has compared the figures for all 32 national squads heading to Russia and the Selecao are comfortably clear of nearest challengers Spain’s mark of 9,783.

Germany (8,005) and France (7,914) follow, with Argentina then clocking up 7,186 minutes to make it two South American sides in the top five and edge England into sixth.

Gareth Southgate’s side managed a collective 7,090 minutes, with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson the top contributor on 867 – ranking him 19th among all World Cup players.

Real Madrid v Liverpool – UEFA Champions League – Final – NSK Olimpiyskiy Stadium
Trent Alexander-Arnold collects his Champions League runner-up medal (Martin Rickett/EMPICS)

Henderson’s club-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold may be new to England’s squad but the teenager was given early exposure to European nights, playing 819 minutes on the Reds’ run to the final – ranking him ahead of Barcelona and Argentina great Lionel Messi in the season’s list.

Former England captain Rio Ferdinand believes it will be a boost to the pair but also hailed the freshness of players such as Alexander-Arnold.

Ferdinand told Press Association Sport: “For the likes of Trent and Henderson it is great experience.

Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand sees encouragement for England in Liverpool’s experience (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“It also shows you, you do not always need experience to get deep into tournaments. That is what could work in England’s favour. There is going to be a fearlessness in this squad and there is not that huge expectancy to go deep in the tournament so that takes pressure off.”

Eighteen of Brazil’s players featured in the Champions League, a total matched only by France, and Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Marcelo’s playing time put them in a top 10 headed by Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Brazil’s three Group E rivals mustered only 5,989 minutes between them from 13 players. Six Serbians played a total of 2,809 minutes, Switzerland got 2,100 from five players and Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas contributed 990 of Costa Rica’s 1,080.

Champions League minutes played by players from World Cup squads
(PA Graphic)

France face only one other team with a total over 1,000 – Denmark on 2,122 – and Germany are similarly unrivalled, but Argentina’s Group D opponents Croatia can boast 3,850 minutes from eight players, led by champion Luka Modric and finalist Dejan Lovren.

Their two other opponents combined for only 336 minutes, all from Nigeria’s Victor Moses with Chelsea, while the situation is even starker in Group G.

England are one place and just 542 minutes ahead of Belgium, whose 17 contributors amassed 6,548 minutes, but also face two teams without a single Champions League player last season.

Manchester City Training Session and Press Conference – City Football Academy
England’s Kyle Walker, left, and Raheem Sterling and Belgium’s Vincent Kompany, right, on Champions League duty with Manchester City (Martin Rickett/PA)

Tunisia and Panama join Iceland, Saudi Arabia and Iran in that category, while another five teams had just a single player involved.

Group A’s 6,718 minutes from 15 players – eight Russians, six from Uruguay and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah – is comfortably the lowest of any group.

Brazil’s tally alone is higher than five of the other groups, the only exceptions being Groups B – where Ronaldo’s Portugal are joined by Spain – and G.

Alisson was not the only Brazil keeper to go deep into the tournament, with Ederson also racking up 810 minutes for quarter-finalists Manchester City. The pair each outranked any of the 10 nations with the lowest totals.

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