Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari and captain Thiago Silva have come out fighting ahead of their crucial World Cup quarter-final matchup against Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday.
The pair have been subject to much criticism at the tournament in Brazil after the hosts' suspect performances so far, especially in scraping past Chile in the last 16 on penalties.
Silva has been widely accused of being an overly emotional leader after his tears during the Chile shootout, while Scolari has responded to criticism about his own approach to management, per Matt Barlow in the Daily Mail: "Scolari, in his own inimitable bar-room style, told Brazilian reporters to 'go to hell' if they didn’t like the fact that he leaked information to a select group of friends in the media."
The psychological stability of this Brazil side has been brought into question after a stuttering group stage and the Chilean victory—after which, many of the players seemed to be emotionally spent, especially Silva.
However, the 29-year-old skipper hit back against his critics with support for Scolari and conviction about his own ability, per Barlow's report:
He [Scolari] is my commander and he never went against me. I don’t care what people think because no one knows me. I just think about my job. This is the way I am. I am emotional and it’s a natural thing for a human being to be emotional. It doesn’t affect me at any time on the pitch. I think it helps me. People are saying silly things. I don’t think it makes any difference. I have overcome many things in life. I overcame tuberculosis. I fought for my life.
While these are confident words from Silva, Brazil undoubtedly need to raise their game Friday, as they have yet to properly convince during the entire tournament.
Their opener against Croatia—which they won 3-1—was a nervy occasion, and the Selecao had to rely on some very favourable refereeing decisions to claim victory.
They went on to be held to a 0-0 draw by Mexico and finally beat Cameroon 4-1 in a confident attacking display, although their defence still looked shaky.
Most recently, in their 1-1 draw with Chile, which they won on penalties, they were arguably the poorer side and are lucky to still be in the competition.
Indeed, Brazilian legend and two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo believes there needs to be changes ahead of the last-eight game, per Luke Norman in the Daily Mail: "We are waiting for a good performance by Brazil. We are not playing well. I am disappointed with the first four matches. I think he [Scolari] will change something. I don't know what."
Brazil have been over-reliant on Neymar so far in this World Cup—he has scored four of their eight tournament goals—and he has confirmed his fitness ahead of Friday's game, per Sky Sports:
However, he will not be able to overcome Colombia on his own, and it is especially important for the hosts that their defence improves against the strongest attacking side they have met thus far.
Attack-minded full-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo will need to be well-disciplined, as Colombia's width could cause them real problems.
However, most importantly, Brazil need to keep their emotions in check and put in an improved and organised performance in Fortaleza; otherwise, this will be the end of the road for their World Cup dream.
While Scolari and Silva have come out fighting, that needs to show on the pitch, or it will hold no weight whatsoever.