x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Scolari relishing the pressure of Brazil job

The 64-year-old officially unveiled as Bazil coach ahead of 2014 World Cup, writes Gary Meenaghan from Sao Paulo

Brazilian national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Brazilian national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

SAO PAULO // If Luiz Felipe Scolari was under any illusions as to the scrutiny he will endure during the next 18 months as he prepares the Brazilian national team for a World Cup on home soil, his first 24 hours as head coach will have set him straight.

Ten years after leading his country to a fifth World Cup title, Scolari on Thursday afternoon was confirmed as a quick-fire replacement for Mano Menezes, who had been surprisingly dismissed the previous day. During 64 year old Scolari's official unveiling, he was asked about the expectations on him and his team ahead of the 2014 showcase.

"If you don't like pressure, it's better to go and work in the Banco do Brasil, or outside on the corner or sit in an office and do nothing," he said, leading to complaints and condemnation by the National Confederation of Financial Industry Workers as well as Banco do Brasil.

On Friday, during a news conference ahead of the following day's draw for next summer's Confederations Cup, Scolari issued a public apology to Banco do Brasil, but warned his country's media to exert caution when picking fights. He said: "If you don't like the way I work, fine, but don't involve other people. I am the person in charge and it will continue this way."

The former Portugal and Chelsea coach was hand-picked by Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF), and will be joined in the dugout by Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led his country to success at the 1994 World Cup. The duo - labelled as "two-sides of a victorious coin" by one local newspaper - are seen to have inherited a young and talented squad, but one which lacks experience.

Scolari dismisses such theories instead noting the inexperience of Neymar, so often portrayed as the fulcrum of the future of Brazilian football, is not necessarily a negative. "He might not have the experience of a World Cup, but there are many players and the squad is very dynamic," he said. "If players want to reach even higher objectives, their youth will sometimes overcome the difficulties related to experience."

Yet the man Brazilians call "Felipao" (Portuguese for Big Phil) is remaining realistic. When asked if he can turn Brazil into a team that plays similarly to the all-conquering Barcelona, he replied: "If we import Iniesta, Messi and other players, then we can play like them, but Brazilian players have different characteristics."

It is these strengths that Scolari intends to play to, hinting he wants one older, experienced player in central midfield as well as his strikers showing more willingness to drop deep as they hunt a record sixth World Cup success.

Brazil automatically qualified for the 2014 showpiece courtesy of being the host nation, but the result is they have not played qualifying matches, instead engaging in friendly matches with weak opposition. The new head coach insists his focus is now simply on analysing players - physically and mentally - and getting them to adapt to his footballing philosophies as quickly as possible.

Next summer's Confederations Cup will inevitably seen as Scolari's first real test. Organised by Fifa as a pre-cursory test event in the same host country that will host the following summer's World Cup, Brazil have triumphed at the previous two tournament in Germany in 2005 and in South Africa in 2009. Scolari insists results are not so important in 2013 and that if the tournament acts merely as a transition period allowing Brazil to succeed 12 months later then so be it.

"It is a parameter much more for the coach than for the fans," Scolari, who was dismissed by Brazilian side Palmeiras in September following a poor sequence of results, said. "Because we are not playing the qualifiers, it's a good period of time for us to get to know reactions, the personalities of the players, tactical views, how they will react - that is more important than the result.

"If we play well, but don't win and the press sees that we are adapting for the World Cup that is better. Obviously, it would be good to win the Confederations Cup and that is what we plan to do, but it is more important for the coach to get to know the players."

Brazil will be joined in the Confederations Cup by Spain, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay, Japan, Tahiti and the winner of February's African Cup of Nations. The draw for the tournament will be made on Saturday in Sao Paulo.

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae