What Luiz Felipe Scolari Brings to Brazil That Mano Menezes Didn't

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportMay 27, 2014

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari speaks to members of the media after the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Brazil is in a good place right now. In a football sense, at the very least. Sixteen days from the World Cup curtain-raiser against Croatia at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, the Selecao Brasileira are in as good a form as they could hope to be.

The statistics all add up: 13 wins from 14. Forty-two goals scored in those outings at a rate of three per game. Six wins on the bounce.

But statistics, for all their positivity, are simply a bunch of numbers and only tell part of the story. Fundamentally, there is an underlying sense of belief. In coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil have a proven winner navigating their passage.

Scolari has done what predecessor Mano Menezes couldn't. Restore a defined system, a playing philosophy and, above all, confidence to a beleaguered set of players.

It does admittedly feel harsh to write about Menezes' two-year reign as Brazil coach in such curt terms. His single objective, upon taking the job post-Dunga and the 2010 World Cup, was success at next month's tournament, meaning his was a four-year project.

Mano Menezes' reign as Brazil coach was cut short
Mano Menezes' reign as Brazil coach was cut shortJeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The current Corinthians boss looked to give the side a complete overhaul, and that inevitably comes with a certain amount of tinkering and experimentation. Perhaps most importantly, he should be remembered as the man to first embed Neymar in senior national colours.

But Scolari brings with him a CV groaning under the weight of success. His international credentials are proven as the last manager to win the World Cup with Brazil, in 2002.

He has swiftly and absolutely ended murmurings that his was an appointment based on nostalgia. His transformation of the side's outlook in the last year has put paid to speculation he may not have the nous to lead his country in a tournament of such high stakes.

There is arguably more pressure on Brazil today than at any other World Cup tournament. Not only to put to rest the demons of the 1950 final defeat to Uruguay—dubbed maracanazo—but to settle a nation that appears on the edge of political revolution.

Scolari, it should be remembered, has already suffered a maracanazo of sorts. At Euro 2004, his Portugal side, also hosting the tournament, suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat in the final of the tournament to Greece.

Felipao surely cannot be hit by the same miserable fate for the second time in a decade?

He won't, if his posture and words are anything to go by. Scolari, in the days running up to the tournament, looks to be oozing confidence, gracing magazine and newspaper covers in a seemingly never-ending marathon of interviews.

Big Phil has resisted encouragement to call his new squad “The Scolari Family," as reported by Estadio VIP (link in Portuguese).

But, in direct contrast to Menezes, he has given the players under his charge exactly what a father would for his children to prosper: The secure environment in which to make mistakes and not be castigated, stability in terms of a tactical approach, which has given the players direction and, above all, the determination that is so desperately needed before embarking on a World Cup journey.

Last June, in the final friendly before the Confederations Cup, Brazil beat France 3-0 at the Arena Gremio in Porto Alegre. It was the first time since 2009 the Selecao had defeated one of world football's traditional powerhouses.

Since that pivotal moment they have never looked back.

Brazil have surged forward since winning the Confederations Cup last June.
Brazil have surged forward since winning the Confederations Cup last June.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Under Menezes, there were defeats to Argentina, France and Germany, and a goalless draw with Holland. Add to the mix a disastrous 2011 Copa America, in which Brazil were eliminated by Paraguay in the quarter-finals, and defeat in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games, one can see reasons for his dismissal, As he continued to experiment, an immediate focus was lacking.

Felipao has meanwhile overseen victories over France, Italy, Spain and Portugal; he is yet to come up against fiercest rivals and neighbours Argentina. Whilst the defensive unit, developed by both Dunga and Menezes, remains the core strength of the side, Scolari has got the attack purring contentedly.

What Menezes contributed to the Selecao's preparations for this World Cup should not be overlooked, however. He was at the helm for over two years and it would be wrong and churlish to dismiss his efforts as a colossal waste of time.

Halfway through his timeline his efforts were cut short, and he would not be human if he did not wonder “What if?”

But what Scolari has done so effectively is to oil the weaponry. Now it is ready to fire.