Hungry Brazil believe in sixth star
Fortified by home advantage, Brazil are bursting to set out in pursuit of their sixth World Cup and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari says he has a good idea of his starting XI.
"Big Phil" Scolari already has the kudos which comes from having coached the Selecao to their fifth crown in Japan in 2002, as well as a Confederations Cup final win over world champions Spain six months ago.
But following a 5-0 friendly success over Honduras and a 2-1 win in their final friendly of 2013 against Chile, he says his current vintage is maturing nicely and will rise to the challenge.
"I haven't as yet defined the 23-man squad and am still observing players -- but this is my team," said Scolari after his side defeated a Chilean team, which impressed in the regional qualifiers, in Toronto.
Scolari, who took over the reins for a second time 12 months ago, does not have to name his squad until May 7 -- they will play a final tune-up on March 5 against South Africa but will know their opening phase opponents after the December 6 draw at Costa de Sauipe.
After the Brazilians unveiled their new kit in Rio on Sunday, Scolari expressed confidence in his charges.
"I think we have a great chance. We shall be competing at home and we have a great team, excellent players and have our home fans behind us."
Brazil famously lost the final of the only World Cup it has staged to date to tiny neighbours Uruguay in 1950. But the giant nation bounced back to win its first crown in Sweden eight years later, inspired by a teenage Pele.
And further wins followed in 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
After replacing Mano Menezes, Scolari was blunt as he insisted that Brazil have an "obligation" to lift the trophy at home.
Their swamping of Spain in the Confederations Cup final did blow away many of the recent clouds of doubt which had hung over the team and had caused many fans to question their capabilities of winning the world title.
"I think we have what it takes to be champions. With Felipao, the team has improved," said Pele recently, giving a belated seal of approval having voiced doubts before the Confederations Cup.
A pragmatist who prefers to get results rather than prioritize the "jogo bonito" (beautiful game), Scolari has been here before, having taken over a mediocre side struggling in 2001 to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
In 19 matches in charge, his record this time around reads 13 victories, four draws and just two losses.
Looking forward to the draw, Scolari said that "we will be ready from the first moment to go up against whoever we must to reach the final."
Admiring the latest variant of the famous yellow, green and blue kit Scolari joked: "There's only one thing missing -- a sixth star" which the Brazilians hope to sew on next July.
Having qualified as hosts, Brazil are short on recent competitive experience but Scolari has still been able to examine the options open to him.
He brought back striker Fred -- dropped by Menezes -- and he responded with an excellent Confederations showing, dovetailing well with the mercurial Neymar.
Coupled with Oscar's ability to read the game and the attacking muscle of Hulk, Scolari has been able to build a strong base.
He now has to decide whether to find a berth for Robinho, back in his plans after Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa elected to pin his colours to the nauralized Spanish mast.
"He is turning his back on the dream of millions, representing our five-time champions at a World Cup in Brazil," blasted Scolari.
Willian of Chelsea is another to benefit from the Costa decision.
As their team takes shape under a commander who has already demonstrated his ability to get results, Brazil know above all they need only remind themselves of a single word as they look to go better than their 1950 counterparts, shocked at the Maracana by the Uruguayans.
Maracanazo is the term firmly lodged ever since in the collective Brazilian psyche and which Scolari is now pledging to exorcise once and for all.
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