If Brazil’s World Cup squad is a family, Luiz Felipe Scolari is its patriarch.
Appointed to succeed the ousted Mano Menezes as Selecao manager just 18 months ago, Scolari was always going to replace the chaos and confusion of his predecessor with something more unified, more comfortable.
Which is why his selection for the upcoming World Cup contained few surprises, the vast majority of the names having long been known to him, to them and to anyone who has followed Felipao’s second coming with the national team and understood what he was trying to accomplish.
Each of the 11 players who started the 2013 Confederations Cup final against Spain—a match Brazil won 3-0—are back in the fold (they never left), and of the tournament’s 23-man squad only seven players were dropped this time around, replaced by Victor, Maicon, Henrique, Maxwell, Ramires, Fernandinho and Willian.
Of the seven, only Fernandinho will be in contention for a starting place in Brazil’s World Cup curtain-raiser, and although that match against Croatia is still 36 days off, Scolari likely knew his starting line-up months ago.
Despite making strong cases for themselves, the likes of Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho and AC Milan playmaker Kaka were never really in contention, and Rossoneri forward Robinho will have been little more than an afterthought to Scolari and his brain trust.
They may have laboured, however, over the conundrum of Paris Saint-Germain winger Lucas Moura, although Willian’s impressive form for Chelsea made the former Sao Paulo standout’s omission considerably less problematic.
The 34-year-old could have been playing Sunday league football and Scolari would have picked him. He was made the 2002 World Cup-winning manager’s clear No. 1 ahead of the Confederations Cup, and his stand-out performances at the competition won him Scolari’s loyalty.
And it’s a very traditional, familial loyalty.
Scolari is the sort of boss who keeps his favourites firmly within his embrace, and (at least at international level) he’s been repaid time and again by players who will do anything for him. The harmonious environment he fosters is mimicked on the pitch.
It’s easy to forget now that they’ve won the Confederations Cup and been popularly installed as World Cup favourites, but it was only a year and a half ago that Brazil appeared destined to make an embarrassment of themselves in 2014.
Incredibly, the 65-year-old righted the ship in a matter of months, and he did it by rewarding the players who performed for him with permanent places in his "Familia Scolari."
Kaka and Coutinho, nevermind Robinho and Ronaldinho, were never in it, and should Brazil go on to win the World Cup in July, the triumph will have been every bit a family affair.