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Willian sets sights on World Cup 2018, ready to fight for his spot both at Chelsea and Brazil

“Whether I go to Russia or not depends on what happens day by day at my club.”

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

World Cup years are special years for professional footballers. While international football is generally crap — national teams are basically all-star teams playing together with just a fraction of the tactics and strategy and cohesiveness usually seen at club level — representing one’s country at the biggest sporting event on the planet is often seen as the height of one’s profession. So players often spend the previous 6-12 months making sure that they enter or remain in their national team’s reckoning, and do often use that goal to guide their decision-making in terms of transfers and other such considerations.

That’s not to say that Willian is angling for a transfer, but if he did, it perhaps wouldn’t be that surprising. After three years of being first-choice at Chelsea, he spent last season largely as a backup — an effective backup, but a backup nonetheless — and while he did not lose his spot in the Selecão (unlike former teammate Oscar), it’s perhaps not as assured as it was in previous years. (We’ve already had a few transfer rumors linking him with Manchester United again; now we might have a few more.)

“I have to fight for my spot, I have to keep playing well at Chelsea. Whether I go to Russia or not depends on what happens day by day at my club. I have a good chance of going to the World Cup, but I’m no guarantee. You have to prove every game that you deserve your spot in the team for the World Cup.”

“Every time I play for the national team, I do my best, I have to prove why I’m here and Friday will be no different.”

-Willian; source: Fox Sports Australia

When Willian joined Chelsea four years ago, he had just 2 appearances for Brazil to his name. He now has 45, having missed just three games since November 2013, and is one of the most experienced players in the squad alongside the reunited defensive duo of Thiago Silva and David Luiz. At 28, going on 29, next summer’s World Cup is likely to be Willian’s final big hurrah for Brazil. Time waits for no man.

He’s been a key player for new head coach Tite, just as he had been for old head coach Dunga, and Willian will no doubt do everything in his power to continue playing a key role for his country over the next year. Brazil have already qualified for Russia, the first team other than the hosts to do so. They will take on Argentina and Australia in friendlies this Friday and Tuesday.

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