Thursday, 21 November 2013

Scolari is right - Why Brazil should expect to win the World Cup

Scolari is right - Why Brazil should expect to win the World Cup

Scolari is right - Why Brazil should expect to win the World Cup

The veteran coach has every reason to be confident after Robinho inspired the 2014 tournament hosts to a sixth straight win in warm-up matches
By Rupert Fryer in Toronto

As his colleagues jogged back into position for the restart, Robinho looked to the heavens and pumped his fists. Thrice. Smiling from ear to ear.

His is a particularly infectious smile. And one that has been seen all week, whether it be teasing Bernard after the little man was nutmegged by David Luiz in training, strolling through the hotel lobby or after backheeling a pass for Hulk to wrap up the 5-0 victory over Honduras.

It was as wide as ever on Tuesday night in Toronto when his goal earned Brazil their sixth straight win - their 13th in 19 games since Luiz Felipe Scolari was once again brought in for a rescue job. He did it in 2002. And right now all signs point to him doing it again.

Almost a year on from his appointment, Brazil look like world beaters. They believe. So does Scolari. "Brazil will be world champions," he said on Saturday as the momentum they built up during a stunning Confederations Cup-winning campaign shows no signs of slowing down.
06/02 England 2-1 Brazil
21/03 Italy 2-2 Brazil
25/03 Russia 1-1 Brazil
06/04 Bolivia 0-4 Brazil
25/04 Brazil 2-2 Chile
02/06 Brazil 2-2 England
09/06 Brazil 3-0 France
15/06 Brazil 3-0 Japan
19/06 Brazil 2-0 Mexico
22/06 Italy 2-4 Brazil
26/06 Brazil 2-1 Uruguay
01/07 Brazil 3-0 Spain
14/08 Switzerland 1-0 Brazil
07/09 Brazil 6-0 Australia
11/09 Brazil 3-1 Portugal
12/10 South Korea 0-2 Brazil
15/10 Brazil 2-0 Zambia
17/11 Honduras 0-5 Brazil
20/11 Brazil 2-1 Chile

The coach known as "the professor" revealed this week he is already certain of as many as 20 of the names that will appear in his 23-man World Cup squad. The group is settled. Their bond appears unbreakable. For all the typical talk of Felipao establishing another "Scolari family", it appears that's exactly what he's done. Defender Maxwell stated "never before have I been part of a squad that enjoy being together so much" - and he's not the only one to do so.

In 12 months, Scolari appears to have solved all the problems suffered by his predecessor, Mano Menezes.

Luiz Gustavo has stepped out of the international wilderness to become a fixture in the holding midfield role. Julio Cesar, despite almost zero playing time for his club, has rediscovered his form to establish himself as No.1. Fred may not be the most glamorous centre forward to have donned the No.9 jersey for the Selecao, but few would bet against him continuing to find the net.

Even in his absence, and with Diego Costa having snubbed Brazil to instead play for Spain, former Manchester City and Everton striker Jo has stepped up to a level few thought he would reach following his Premier League disappointment – prior to the Honduras game, he had averaged a goal every 72 minutes for Scolari.

On Tuesday night at Toronto's Rogers Centre, Brazil faced their biggest test since defeating Spain in June. Chile rode into Canada on the back of a 2-0 victory over England and unbeaten in 10 games under Jorge Sampaoli.

Most importantly, la Roja presented a different sort of threat than many of Brazil's recent opponents. While the likes of Honduras and Zambia have sat back, conceded possession and looked only to stifle Brazil's increasingly prolific attack, Chile took the game to them.

"We won't change our style," said Sampaoli when I asked him before the game whether they would be more cautious after seeing Brazil breeze through Spain's high press in the Confederations Cup final.

After an opening 20 minutes in which Brazil dominated, Sampaoli made an early and shrewd substitution, withdrawing Jose Pedro Fuenzalida, a passenger in midfield, for playmaker Jorge Valdivia. From then on Chile regained control of possession and Brazil had to adapt. But adapt they did, ceding possession to play on the counter-attack.

And they were devastating. "We could have won by more," said Scolari. Had Willian chosen a better pass when they were through three-on-two, had Robinho taken his chance when one-on-one with Bravo, had Neymar not strayed in from an offside position to backheel home from close range, then they would have done.

Perhaps most importantly was the tactical flexibility Brazil displayed on Tuesday. Ramires' reintroduction has seen them switch between a 4-2-3-1 and a flat 4-3-3 in recent matches and, though some criticise some of the weaker opposition they have faced, they have provided excellent preparation for a World Cup in which many will seek to simply to stop the hosts from playing.

This result, coupled with the victory over Spain, shows that Scolari's Brazil can mix it up.

"I think we will win the World Cup," said one prominent Brazilian journalist as he waited for Big Phil's press conference on Tuesday. He's not the only one.

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