England take on Brazil this evening in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s return to both London and the Brazil manager’s position. (See my Reuters piece on what to expect from Felipao’s reign.)
The former Chelsea coach has just one task. Win the World Cup at home in July 2014.
What happens until then is largely irrelevant. Only an unthinkable turn of events would lead to his firing before the tournament begins and poor form up to that point will be ignored. Felipao took over in 2001 when his team were considered outsiders and barely a year later he’d led them to a record fifth World Cup title. The dinosaurs at the CBF trust him and so do Brazilians.
Ronaldinho Gaucho is being given another chance to prove he can cut it at the highest level. Dunga gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. Mano Menezes gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. I can’t fathom why Felipao reckons the Atletico Mineiro player is worthy of yet another chance.
He may have played well last year but the World Cup at home is a serious business and that requires concentration, consistency and serious dedication, qualities that Ronaldinho doesn’t seem to have. He may shine on occasion but Felipao needs more than that at this stage.
Luis Fabiano, meanwhile, has a goals per game record at international level that is up there with the best of them (if this site it to be believed). His problem, however, is his temperament. He was sent off several times last year and got Lord knows how many yellow cards.
The pressure on Brazil at home will be immense and the one thing that Felipao needs more than anything are players who can handle that pressure. I doubt Luis Fabiano can.
The Brazil team:
Júlio César; Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Dante and Adriano; Ramires, Paulinho, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Oscar; Neymar and Luis Fabiano.
Kick off 7:30pm UK time, 5:30 pm Brazil time.