What Will 3rd-Place Play-Off Tell Us About the Future of Brazil?

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJuly 11, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JULY 08:  Oscar of Brazil shows his dejection after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany at Estadio Mineirao on July 8, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Perhaps forgotten amid the hysteria of one of the most incredible matches to take place at a World Cup, Brazil still have a game to play.

The Selecao, having lost by a six-goal margin for the first time since 1920, have to pick themselves up to play the Netherlands in the third-place play-off on Saturday in Brasilia.

Normally, these games are little more than a precursor to the following day's main event—a Confederations Cup compressed into 90 minutes.

But after Tuesday's horror show, it is a game Brazil cannot afford to lose. In what could very possibly be Luiz Felipe Scolari's last game in charge after being shown up by Germany, there needs to be a silver lining surrounding the dark cloud of their World Cup campaign.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the whole episode for Brazil is Scolari's refusal to acknowledge that his game plan backfired so spectacularly.

In a move eerily similar to Rafa Benitez's “Fact” press conference against Sir Alex Ferguson, Scolari worked from notes during a press conference on Wednesday to prove his time in the Brazilian hot seat was a success, as reported by O Globo (article in Portuguese).

Saturday's game could be Scolari's last in charge of the Selecao.
Saturday's game could be Scolari's last in charge of the Selecao.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

But football is ultimately a simple sport and judged on the basest of terms. Success is measured in trophies, not win-percentage rates across a year and a half of friendlies against the likes of South Africa and Zambia.

ESPN reported Scolari's defence of his Brazil record, and when asked if the team would have to find a new way of playing, he was quoted as saying:

Why? Because we lost one match? 13 or 14 of those players out there will be at the 2018 World Cup.

They're working, developing still. I think you'll see at least that many there in 2018.

This is a catastrophic, terrible loss. The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever, yes. But we have to learn to deal with that.

Yet Big Phil's startling defence of his work at the helm of the Brazilian ship could be perceived as a sign that the time for change is ripe. He transformed the team's fortunes and lifted the Confederations Cup but ultimately became undone, in the worst possible fashion, in the first real test he has faced back in charge.

And with former Corinthians boss Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, perhaps better known as Tite, being touted by the Brazilian press as the possible successor to Scolari, this may well be Felipao's final bow, as reported by Folha de Sao Paulo (h/t Marca). Tite is famed in Brazil for his tactical astuteness, something that would have greatly helped the Selecao earlier this week.

Former Corinthians boss Tite (centre) could be the next Brazil boss.
Former Corinthians boss Tite (centre) could be the next Brazil boss.Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

The tactical variations employed by Scolari during the World Cup have been limited in the extreme. A failure to recognise the negatives and an unwillingness to learn the lessons is likely to lead to more of the same, not only against the Netherlands but in the future too, should Scolari manage to save his job.

But the immediate question remains: How to approach the upcoming game? Namely, which players can be trusted to take to the field? There must be changes after Tuesday's debacle, the most obvious likely to be the removal of Bernard.

It's a folly that was exposed with consummate ease, as Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe noted: "Bernard was closely attended to by Benedikt Hoewedes...and with Brazil forced into longer passes, the converted centre-back had the beating of him in aerial tussles."

Perhaps a wiser stance would be to start planning for the future without delay. The Copa America is next year and the Olympic Games in 2016 prior to the next World Cup in Russia, and there is an argument to give those who weren't on the pitch at the Mineirao a chance to prove themselves.

But the underlying problem remains the options Scolari has at his disposal for this clash. Having neglected to bring one of Kaka, Robinho or Lucas Moura to the World Cup means he is stuck with either Fred or Jo as his centre-forward, neither of whom have excelled.

How Brazil may line up against Holland on Saturday.
How Brazil may line up against Holland on Saturday.B/R

His alternative is to revert to a striker-less formation, the very idea developed by predecessor Mano Menezes and discarded by Scolari upon arrival.

There has been much talk of the “real” Brazil turning up for the match with the Netherlands. But the stark reality is that we have seen that Brazil in the game against Germany; insurmountable proof that Brazil 2014 is Neymar plus 10.

That this team had its limitations was already known. What was the shock was to see the Selecao dismantled in such a fashion.

Yes, Scolari got his team and his tactics wrong. This certainly is not a vintage Brazil crop, but the coach's stubborn reluctance to accept the shortcomings may turn into the country's biggest stumbling block on the path to recovery.


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