We can help build a better Brazil - Scolari
Brazil's football team can help to build a better country as the giant nation wrestles with social unrest amid demands for political reform, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Tuesday.
"This is a crucial moment for the Brazilian team," said Scolari as he looked forward to Wednesday's Confederations Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte against South American champions Uruguay.
"The things we are doing to build a better country will not be in vain if we can keep this up. Find a better life together and not fighting against each other. Then we can live in the country we always longed for," said Scolari, waxing lyrical on the power of the game to unite a nation.
More than 1.5 million Brazilians have demonstrated against poor public services and corruption in recent days and some marches have turned violent.
Although the government has promised reforms and increased spending, many protesters are still expected in Belo Horizonte, where 70,000 hit the streets last Saturday.
The five-time world champions turned to Scolari, 64, for a second time seven months ago as the country's Football Confederation - and fans - fretted on how to find the winning recipe at next year's World Cup finals on home soil
Brazil's last home match at the World Cup was a game forever etched in the country's collective memory, as it ended in defeat in the 1950 final against the Uruguayans in a Maracana stadium bursting with some 200,000 people.
Scolari joked he wasn't old enough to remember that and denied that thoughts of 1950 were intruding on preparations to see off the Uruguayans and earn a place in the final of what is a World Cup dress rehearsal.
"I don't think there is a psychological element involved. I think it is a game and the best team will win," said Scolari, who delivered Brazil's record fifth World Cup 11 years ago and who is slowly rebuilding a team to be feared.
Saying he planned no changes from the team which beat Italy to complete a 100 percent record in the group phase, Scolari said the foundations had been laid and now must be carefully built upon.
Scolari also emphasised the importance of the fans getting right behind them.
"I feel the Brazilian fans have been very good to us everywhere we have been so far. They realise the team needs support and when we were in trouble they carried us in their arms!
"Maybe the fans were not always 100 percent convinced but now they realise we are on the right track," he insisted.
Scolari says young stars such as Neymar are blending well with elder statesmen such as Fred - "I know I can trust Fred every day, as a player, person, friend" - but must learn to keep the team's shape and be disciplined.
"Brazilian teams have always scored goals. One weakness we used to have was our positioning and once we improve that we will get even better."
Scolari said Uruguay were a huge threat as long as Oscar Tabarez, who oversaw their Copa America win in 2011, was at the helm.
"I've known Tabarez many years now and I know the way he works, work of the highest quality.
"(Edinson) Cavani was top striker in Italy for the past two or three, Diego Forlan was top player at the 2010 World Cup, Luis Suarez was voted best player in the British league - they are top quality players and so we must be careful."
Scolari may have had woes at club level in recent seasons - he lasted only a few months at Chelsea, then Palmeiras - but back with Brazil he is reinvigorated.
He was voted best coach in Latin America in 1999 after winning the Copa Libertadores with Palmeiras, receiving a trophy from the press.
"Now I have to put that trophy aside because I need room for another one," he smiled.
And if Brazil should lose?
"Defeat can show you a new way forward. But this is not something I want to think about."
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