Desperate to win at home

The unending protests over economic issues in the country have been a sore point ahead of the World Cup. However, the unrest seems to have had little impact with most citizens giving the thumbs up to samba and football, which will combine to enthral billions of football aficionados around the world between June 12 and July 13.

As the coach of the most successful footballing nation, which is aiming to lift the coveted trophy as the World Cup returns to the Samba land after a break of 64 years, Luiz Felipe Scolari should definitely be feeling the weight of the expectations of his country.

Brazil as host reached the final of the 1950 World Cup, but lost to Uruguay. And the five titles that the nation has won since then have all failed to satisfy the football-crazy nation, which desperately wants to see the ‘Selecao’ triumph at home.

Scolari, who replaced a not-so-efficient Mano Menezes at the helm, seems to be the best bet to lead the Selecao to victory at home. Having helped Brazil win its last World Cup in 2002 — in the tournament co-hosted by Korea and Japan — Scolari’s arrival has renewed the hopes of the nation, which failed to get beyond the quarterfinal stage in the previous two editions (2006 Germany and 2010 South Africa).

The astute coach had the likes of Ronaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo among others, as he infused gusto to the side during its successful campaign in 2002. The current Brazilian team, which is too dependent on the accomplishments of Neymar, looks somewhat modest in comparison. Nevertheless, Brazil is one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Brazil displayed its might in the 2013 Confederations Cup, where it dominated the World Cup champion, Spain, to win 3-0. Brazil, thus, proved that it can beat any team on its day. In fact, the Confederations Cup was all about Brazil, which won all its five games, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three.

Scolari has a young team with players of the calibre of Neymar and Oscar lending it the confidence to compete against the best in the business. Neymar may not have had a good first season with Barcelona but for Selecao, the talented player has scored 30 goals in 47 games, making him the best striker in the business today. In comparison, the other forwards in the team such as Fred and Jo are nowhere near Neymar.

Neymar scored a hat-trick in Brazil’s 5-0 win over South Africa in the last friendly and his form has been very impressive. However, Scolari may still need a top striker to complement Neymar, who generally plays wider on the field, as Fred and Jo have not been very convincing of late.

Scolari has repeatedly asserted that the present team has a “different dynamics” and that this type of dynamics is very important for modern football. To substantiate his point, the coach would be eager to get more out of his robust players such as Hulk, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Luis Gustavo.

However, the speed and skills of Neymar and Oscar in the attack will be the driving force of Brazil.