How Luis Felipe Scolari Made Brazil Look Like World Cup Winners Again
When Brazil headed into the Confederations Cup in June, there were very few people predicting any chance of success for the Selecao.
Just a few weeks later, though, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side were beating Spain 3-0 in the final of the tournament and installing their name firmly among the favourites for next summer's tournament.
It was a remarkable turnaround. Having recorded just one win in six matches under Felipao, Brazil are now on a six-match winning streak. Confidence is now flowing through the team once more, and there is real belief that the Selecao can secure world title success next summer.
But, just how did Scolari go about returning Brazil to winning ways?
Consistent team selection
While results may not have been good, Scolari stressed the importance of building familiarity within his squad and chosen first eleven.
After a disappointing opening fixture at Wembley, where Brazil lost 2-1 to England, Scolari chose to discard a handful of names—with Ronaldinho and Luis Fabiano the most eye-catching. Since that fixture, though, a solid unit has formed.
In the injury-enforced absence of Paulinho from friendlies earlier in the year, Fernando and Hernanes deputised in the centre of midfield. Throughout the pre-Confederations Cup friendlies, though, Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo were allowed to work upon their understanding in the centre of the park.
It is difficult for international teams to build cohesion when they are playing friendly fixtures in as many countries as Brazil have in recent times. The squad are together for a short time, with travelling involved midway through the international break, meaning there is little time to work on tactical systems.
Brazil used their pre-Confederations Cup training camp to work upon the team's tactical approach and cohesion, with the progress made visible as the month went on.
Having built an understanding of how he wants his side to play, Scolari can now look to tweak the personnel and tactics ahead of next summer's World Cup. For now, though, it is only minor tweaks required.
Increased team spirit and self-belief
A major issue for Brazil since the 2010 World Cup has been a lack of belief in their own abilities. Brazil may not have the quality of player they could once count upon, but they were certainly better players than the results showed.
Scolari is known for the "Familia Scolari" (Scolari family) spirit he fostered among the squad which won the 2002 World Cup, having also taken over an underperforming side just a year before the competition.
While that moniker is yet to make a fully-fledged return ahead of next summer's World Cup, the spirit in the squad at the Confederations Cup was clear to see.
The task at hand, though, was undoubtedly aided by off-pitch events.
With Brazil's major cities playing host to major protests against the country's leadership and hosting of the World Cup, passions in the South American country were running incredibly high.
The football team, though, became a rallying point.
With the country's anthem and flag taking a prominent place within the protests, their appearance at games created an incredible atmosphere before kick-off had even occurred.
From then on, the emotions of the spectators filled the stadium with incredible noise and, game after game, Brazil came shooting out the blocks.
Felipao and his side harnessed the power of the crowds' emotions and used it as inspiration. A morale-boosting late win over France undoubtedly helped boost belief pre-tournament, but the manager should be given great credit for his role in turning around the side's fortunes.
After all, if we look at it the other way, Scolari would have been accused of having "lost the dressing room" had the tournament ended in disaster.
Tough selection calls made
Too often in Brazil selection decisions for the national team have been made based upon demands in the media for a certain player's inclusion.
Felipao, though, has thus far ignored media clamours for the inclusion of Ronaldinho in particular. It has greatly helped his side.
The Atletico Mineiro playmaker has enjoyed himself in Belo Horizonte, recently helping his side to victory in the Copa Libertadores.
For the Selecao, though, he has failed to perform and reportedly broke squad rules in turning up late for a dinner organised during his last international camp in April—a domestic fixture with Chile. (Sambafoot)
As a result, he was discarded.
Given the former Barcelona man's recent performances for Brazil, it was the correct call. He has now consistently failed to prove he is up to the pace of the international game and, as a result, should not be called.
Chelsea midfielder Ramires, who failed to report to see the squad's doctor when injured, was another ruthlessly dropped by the manager.
The decisions could have cost Felipao his job had the tournament failed to work out as planned.
Felipao, though, made the decisions required to ensure players were aware of standards required from Brazil national team players. His choices have since been justified.
What Scolari knew when taking the job was that he had a selection of players failing to perform to their potential. It was, then, simply an issue of choosing the right combinations and instilling self-belief.
Winning the Confederations Cup ahead of Italy and Spain was an unexpected success, but a game-changing result, as far as Brazil's World Cup hopes are concerned.
Scolari deserves to be congratulated for his work, but will know that it will be how he builds upon his initial triumph that will determine how his second spell with the Selecao is regarded.
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