The Transformation of Brazil Under Luiz Felipe Scolari and Its World Cup Effect

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportMarch 20, 2014

There were admittedly some raised eyebrows when the Brazilian Football Confederation, the CBF, dispensed with the services of coach Mano Menezes in November 2012, paving the way for the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

For starters, the timing seemed off. In August of that year, Menezes had led a Brazil under-23 side to the final of the Olympic Games, where they lost 2-1 to Mexico in the final.

Surely, if Menezes was ripe for the chop, failure in London was the right time to act. Instead, another three months rolled by, with the assumption that the former Flamengo boss had clung onto his job, and he would indeed be leading Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as had been mooted when he took over after the 2010 World Cup.

So when CBF president Jose Maria Marin dismissed Menezes and replaced him with old favourite Scolari, it felt like the national side may have taken a leap backwards.

Scolari was the last man to lift the World Cup with the Selecao Brasileira, in 2002, but in the intervening 11 years he had won nothing of note.

He had taken Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 and the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup. But his jump back into major domestic football was ill-fated, lasting only a few months at Premier League outfit Chelsea.

Looking back now, one can only view Big Phil's return to the Brazilian hot seat as a rip-roaring success.

There was a slow start—defeat to England followed by draws with Italy, Russia and Chile. Even the team's return to the hallowed Maracana was a disappointment, Brazil salvaging a 2-2 draw against England with a late volley from Paulinho.

But during the Confederations Cup, the players clicked. Scolari's tactical reshuffle, namely of using a fixed centre-forward as the focal point of the attack, came of age and Brazil walked away with the trophy.

They haven't looked back.

Since June, they have suffered just one defeat, in their first friendly post-Confederations Cup. Brazil went down 1-0 to Switzerland whilst still high on the wave of euphoria following their comprehensive dismantling of world and European champions Spain.

What Felipao has done expertly is not to mess with the components Menezes had put in place. Brazil's defensive sector, since the days of Dunga after the 2006 World Cup, has been the core strength of the side.

The monstrosity that was Internazionale and Brazil captain Lucio has passed on, but his replacement at the centre of the Brazilian defence, Thiago Silva, cuts a no-less-imposing figure marshalling those around him.

At the Confederations Cup, Brazil conceded just three goals, less than a goal per game. If you go back to the beginning of the new dawn of Scolari, Brazil's back line has been breached just 15 times in 20 outings.

Whilst it has never been strictly true that the Brazilians prioritize entertainment over results, as the popular myth goes, their backbone has certainly taken on more steel-like qualities over the last decade, a shift that Scolari has been more than happy to continue.

After the disappointment of the 2006 World Cup—the offensive prowess of Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Kaka failed to end in global glory—Dunga rebuilt the Selecao approach from scratch.

The scheme has seen them win the 2007 Copa America and the 2009 and 2013 editions of the Confederations Cup.

Small fry, of course, compared to a World Cup.

But whereas Menezes dithered in finding the right formation and outlets for his side, Scolari has managed to create a firm identity for his players.

His defensive unit, boasting the experience of Julio Cesar, Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva, is sweetly counterbalanced by the attacking verve of Neymar and Oscar, the architects of a modern construction.

They are ably supported by a midfield cast that could include Ramires and Paulinho, topped with the tank-like Fred up top. The latter three have all come into their own in “The Scolari Family.”

It cannot be denied that the groundwork for Scolari's success had been laid by predecessors; the tide of the Selecao had been changing slowly for the last eight years.

But that transformation, under the watchful eye of the head of the family, has an excellent chance of coming to fruition on the biggest stage of all.

Related

    Ronaldo: Madrid Are Better Than Liverpool

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Ronaldo: Madrid Are Better Than Liverpool

    Gill Clark
    via Bleacher Report

    Why Real Don't Fear Liverpool at All 👀

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Why Real Don't Fear Liverpool at All 👀

    Richard Fitzpatrick
    via Bleacher Report

    Zidane Would Not Swap Ronaldo for Salah

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Zidane Would Not Swap Ronaldo for Salah

    Evening Standard
    via Evening Standard

    Zidane: Liverpool Aren't Hungrier Than Madrid

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Zidane: Liverpool Aren't Hungrier Than Madrid

    Pablo Polo
    via MARCA in English