As the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup drew to a close Sunday night in the famous Maracana, Luiz Felipe Scolari raged. He ranted and gesticulated, looking more like a wildly animated cartoon character than the coach who had just masterminded the shellacking of a Spanish team that is arguably the best footballing side ever assembled.
Scolari’s hysterics and histrionics seemed out of place. Brazil won the Confederations Cup with a marvelous zeal and panache, winning all five games they played in the tournament – the destruction of Spain a stunning final exclamation point.
Spain was humiliated. The Brazilian’s came with so much fire and passion from the national anthem to the final whistle. They almost matched their coach in competitive fire. It’s hard to think back to a month ago when Brazil was a wounded animal, a shell of their five-star selves ranked number 22 in the world.
When Mano Menezes was sacked on November 23, 2012, Brazil were as directionless as a national team can be. After a disastrous 2011 Copa America, and failure in the London Olympics against Mexico, Menezes’ time was up, and the man to replace him and lead Brazil into the Confederations and World Cup was always Scolari.
After all, in his last spell, Scolari entered as manager of Brazil in almost identical circumstances. In June 2001, Brazil were struggling and in danger of not qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. Emerson Leao, who had a 4-4-3 record as manager of Brazil was sacked, and Scolari, who had been managing Cruzeiro in the Brazilian League, was installed.
Scolari was a bold choice. Coming into 2002, Scolari only had six months of international management experience with Kuwait – his reign cut short by the Gulf War. Scolari eventually guided Brazil into the World Cup, although his reign started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay. But Brazil were as unfancied in ’02 as they had been going into a World Cup in recent memory.
In 2002, Scolari left Brazilian legend Romario off his World Cup roster, and selected a team mixed with steel and sizzle – but certainly not the pretty-playing sides Brazil were used to. Scolari was lambasted in the Brazilian media, right up to the point that Brazil won the tournament.
Ten years later, Scolari entered the Brazilian camp with the national team facing many of the problems they had in 2002. Under Menezes, Brazil didn’t have any particular playing style, and no balance between old blood and new blood. Stuck in between two generations, and stuck with underperforming stars, Menezes was out of answers as his team played disjointed, disheartening football.