Luiz Felipe Scolari Left with Pleasant Problems After World Cup Warm-Ups

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Luiz Felipe Scolari Left with Pleasant Problems After World Cup Warm-Ups
Getty Images

It wasn't pretty, but the job got done. This isn't how Brazil are supposed to win World Cups, but if any coach can be described as "his own man," it is Luiz Felipe Scolari; to put it frankly, he won't give a damn.

The weather was wet, the pitch at Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium heavy and cut up. This was never going to be one for the football purists.

Neymar was the usual target for opponents and their overzealous studs. On this occasion, the Barcelona forward was scythed down with just three seconds on the clock.

That first roll on the floor was an omen. This wasn't to be one of the 22-year-old's greatest displays in a Selecao shirt.

True, he provided a pinpoint pass for Hulk to race through and lift the ball over goalkeeper Dragan Stojkovic, only for the linesman to erroneously raise his flag.

Friday, Neymar started the game wide on the left, rather than more centralized, as he had against Panama on Tuesday.

There were dribbles but not enough vision. Twice the No. 10 had golden chances to release team-mates in threatening positions, only to cling on to the ball, attempt to evade more opponents and lose the ball.

Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Neymar did not have one of his best games for Brazil against Serbia.

Forgive the cliche, but this really was a game of two halves.

Scolari's starting XI was the one that should start at the Arena Corinthians against Croatia on Thursday. This has been Felipao's first-choice team for the best part of a year now, but in the first half, the side looked like strangers, cobbled together for a kick-around on the local marshland.

The defence, so often the strong point of this Brazil line-up, looked shaky, Serbia managing to get in behind both full-backs to create chances. At another worrying moment, Thiago Silva and David Luiz almost ran into each other to clear a bouncing ball.

Such a lack of communication could have disastrous consequences over the coming month.

One can only imagine what was said at the interval, but you can be sure it could not be broadcast before the watershed. Willian came on for the once-again ineffective Oscar, with one final chance to present his case for a starting berth.

Andre Penner/Associated Press
Willian's performances over the last two games have given Scolari a selection headache.

As he did against Panama, he was one of the best players on the pitch. Perhaps all he has done is confirm his status as Brazil's 12th man, the go-to guy off the bench when Plan A backfires.

On this evidence, that scenario would be a crying shame. Oscar played in a slightly more withdrawn role during the first half, closer to the midfield pair of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho to move the ball to the front line more quickly.

But it was Willian who excelled in the role, in addition to switching positions frequently and seamlessly with Hulk, who again put in a promising performance, silencing his doubters.

The goal, when it came just before the hour mark, was a relief. The 57,000 inside the Morumbi were admittedly more patient than their counterparts in Goiania three days previously, but boos could be heard in the air with the score still goalless.

Silva's long ball forward was chested down by Fred, who managed to stab the ball home after slipping over on the surface. Not for nothing is he known as the Horizontal Pele.

Andre Penner/Associated Press
Fred silences his critics at the Morumbi.

His timing was perfect. Not a minute prior to the strike, shouts for Luis Fabiano, a Sao Paulo favourite, could be heard emanating from the terraces.

As far as clear-cut chances went, that was about as far as it went for Brazil. Jo forced substitute stopper Milan Lukac into a smart reflex save in injury time, but in terms of fluid, flowing football, the fans were left disappointed.

The pitch had a large part to play in that. It was in a terrible state, and injury must have been in the back of the players' minds.

But there are more positives than negatives after the Selecao's two warm-up games. Brazil have won both, without conceding, and have given their coach some pleasant headaches in the days leading up to the opener.

Scolari knows his starting XI. Willian, in the nick of time with two excellent displays, may have forced his hand. All in all, the problems Felipao has prior to June 12 are the type any coach dreams of.

Load More Stories
Brazil (National Football)

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.