Luiz Felipe Scolari returns to job
30 November ~ Brazil's appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari as coach on Thursday has already come under fire for its timing and political backdrop. Scolari succeeds Mano Menezes, who was fired last week to the surprise of most Brazilian commentators. The national team under Menezes appeared to be a work in progress, with Kaká's return adding balance to the burgeoning talents of Neymar, Oscar and Lucas. Copa América humiliation in 2011 – they lost to Paraguay in the quarter finals – or defeat in the Olympics final could have been more appropriate times to prompt change.
Critics sniped about insipid displays against Germany and France, undemanding friendly fixtures and excessive changes in starting line-ups but even the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president José Maria Marin, in between vetting squad selections, intimated that stock-taking would wait until next year's Confederations Cup.
With Menezes out, the CBF fast-forwarded announcing a replacement, only due in January, to placate FIFA's anxiety that the host country should have a coach to attend this weekend's Confederations Cup draw in Saõ Paulo. Another consideration was to end the clamour for a foreign coach, namely Pep Guardiola. Marin, a conservative linked to Brazil's former military rulers, argues that the former Barcelona coach's background has been exclusively at club level. Applying this requirement would have excluded Brazilian candidates such as Tite, Abel Braga and Muricy Ramalho: few have club or national team experience in Europe. The CBF president veered into a sentimental nationalism in defending the choice: "I'm sorry that we don't recognise our heroes. We need to value our patriots more."
The removal of Andrés Sánchez from his post as national team director also invites political problems as he is expected to contest the CBF presidency in 2014. Fallout is also anticipated in Brasilia: president Dilma Rousseff has little time for Marin; through his links to the previous president, Lula, Sanchez had been seen as a mediator. Admittedly the partnership of "Felipão" with his new assistant Carlos Alberto Parreira offers experience, although since respective World Cup titles in 2002 and 1994 their stock has fallen. Parreira was damaged by the forgettable World Cups in 2006 and 2010. Defeat in the European Championship final of 2004 and his tumultuous time at Chelsea blot the Scolari's CV. This season he was partly blamed for the relegation of Palmeiras, despite the team winning the Copa do Brasil earlier this year.
A good-humoured Scolari acknowledged there was "more tranquility" about taking over the national team now than in 2001, when Brazil's World Cup qualifying campaign was in disarray. But he is no stranger to press and touch-line bust-ups and had already waded into controversy when he quipped at Thursday's press conference that "if you don't want pressure then go and work in Banco do Brasil". It provoked an angry reaction from the bank in question and the banking unions. "Big Phil" still may have plenty of credit to draw on although he can no longer count on the "4Rs" – Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo – to add the stardust to a new "Familia Scolari". This week Ronaldo himself lamented the absence of Brazilians from FIFA's Ballon d'Or award as reflecting perhaps "the worst moment of Brazil's footballing history". Robert Shaw