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Scolari to become World Cup legend or loser

11 May 2014 01:16:58

Scolari to become World Cup legend or loser

Luiz Felipe Scolari is putting his status as a Brazilian legend on the line when he takes the host nation's side into the World Cup.

Felipao, or 'Big Phil' as he is known, managed the Brazil side that won the World Cup for a record fifth time in Japan in 2002, and he is confident of doing it again on home soil in July.

If he does not, whether he likes it or not, Scolari will forever be associated with failure in a country traumatised by their defeat to Uruguay in the deciding game of the 1950 tournament, the last hosted by the football-mad South American nation.

However, Scolari insists he is not afraid of the challenge he has taken on as he looks to become only the second man to win two World Cups, after Vittorio Pozzo, who oversaw Italy's consecutive triumphs in 1934 and 1938.

"If I feared challenges, I wouldn't have achieved anything in my career," the 65-year-old said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian in November.

"The players know they will have to win the World Cup. We can't play a tournament in Brazil and think that second place will do."

Indeed, Jose Maria Marin, chairman of the Brazilian Football Confederation, summed up the pressure when he said last month that "if we lose then we all go to hell".

Scolari knew what he was walking into when he accepted the chance to return to the national side in November 2012, after Mano Menezes was sacked.

At the time there was something of a clamour for Brazil to turn to Pep Guardiola, who was a free agent. That would have been popular with many in Brazil, but instead the CBF looked to Scolari.

Ever the pragmatist, Big Phil's footballing philosophy could scarcely be more different to that of the Bayern Munich coach.

Marin, though, has said that Scolari is a "great specialist" when it comes to winning the World Cup. He has already won the Confederations Cup on home soil since returning to the helm.

Born in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, Scolari was a limited player, but he has distinguished himself as a coach, travelling the world over the last three decades.

He has worked in Kuwait, Japan and Uzbekistan but has not been successful everywhere -- Chelsea's demanding owner Roman Abramovich sacked him after just seven months running the English Premier League stars.

Nevertheless, he won the Copa Libertadores, the greatest prize in the South American club game, with both Gremio of Porto Alegre and Palmeiras of Sao Paulo, and he took Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 as well as the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup.

Now his mission is clear. "I took on the national side to be champion," he said after his return. And if he does that, he might even shave off his most prized possession.

"I don't have any authorisation to get rid of the moustache -- but we shall study proposals," he has said.


AFP

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