by Rob Shepherd.
Glen Johnson grew up wanting to be like Brazil World Cup legend Cafu.
Now the England star will get the chance to do just that when he goes to his hero’s homeland in search of World Cup glory.
Johnson is expected to be one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s team-sheet when the Three Lions open their Group D campaign against Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus on June 14.
The Liverpool defender has cemented his place as Hodgson’s first choice right-back following an impressive season in the Premier League. Now he has revealed his attacking game is modelled on Cafu and he is hoping Hodgson gives him the freedom to do his best impression of the man who won a staggering 145 caps and captained Brazil to World Cup triumph in 2002.
Johnson said: “They’ve had many attacking full-backs over the years in Brazil so I’m sure the fans would appreciate seeing other full-backs do similar stuff.
“You love to watch all the attacking players but Cafu, obviously, who played in the same position, was probably best right-back there has ever been.
“It was great to see players like that. It was just the way he carried himself, he was brilliant going forward, good on the ball and could defend very well.
“He had a bit of swagger and played in plenty of World Cups.
“It’s always been a big part of my game, to attack when I can, get forward and support the lads. I like to try and cause a few problems for the other side. I’ve always liked to get forward and hopefully that will continue in Brazil.”
“They are going to have good players and Luis won’t be the only one to worry about”
Johnson didn’t get much chance to express himself under Fabio Capello at the last World Cup in 2010 – but is hoping things will be different this time round.
Johnson, who has won 50 caps, said: “The coaches encourage you to get forward but obviously how and when is your decision because you’re playing the game.
“But sometimes when you end up on the other side of the field it’s because certain things have unfolded and you’ve seen more room and are trying to exploit that.
“Obviously the coaches wouldn’t be encouraging me to run across to the left wing too often, but once you cross that white line you’ve got to play that game and try and put into practice what you’ve been doing in training.
“I’ll probably get a bit more freedom, because Roy definitely encourages full-backs to get forward and join in.
“We’ve got to be as dangerous as we possibly can when we have the ball.”
Despite being keen to showcase his attacking skills on the biggest stage of all, Johnson knows a major part of the challenge will also be to stop club team-mate Luis Suarez when England clash with Uruguay in Sao Paulo in the second group game on June 19.
Suarez is expected to be fit despite having knee surgery last week and Johnson knows better than most how dangerous the striker can be.
But he has warned the Three Lions not to become obsessed with Suarez and look at the bigger picture.
Johnson added: “I’ve not seen the papers for a while so I don’t know what people think the injury is, but he doesn’t seem to think it’s too bad. He thinks he’ll be fit.
“I certainly don’t want him to be injured. You don’t ever want to see your mates or team-mates injured.
“He’s one of the best strikers I’ve ever played with and I’ve played with a few good ones.
“He’s the sort of player who can create things out of nothing and causes everybody problems. You’ve seen it just as much as I have – he’s clearly not one of the players you want to play against in the World Cup.
“He’s just the same in training as in the games. He always wants to win and gets the hump if he doesn’t.
“But we’ve got some fantastic players ourselves who will cause them problems.”