Friday 13 December 2019

Big Phil Scolari comes out fighting

Scolari tells critics to 'go to hell' as he claims Brazil have one hand on the trophy

David Luiz, Neymar and Thiago Silva, Hulk, Fernandinho and Oscar listen to instructions from Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at training ahead of their quarter-final against Colombia. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
David Luiz, Neymar and Thiago Silva, Hulk, Fernandinho and Oscar listen to instructions from Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at training ahead of their quarter-final against Colombia. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Brazil manager Luis-Felipe Scolari last night told his detractors that they could "go to hell" and defiantly claimed that his team would go into tonight's World Cup quarter-final against Colombia with "one hand on the trophy".

In an extraordinary press conference, Scolari went on the attack against his critics in the Brazilian media, telling them they had got it "wrong" in the way they interpreted his use of a psychologist to help the team deal with the mounting pressure.

Former Brazil greats, including Cafu and Carlos Alberto, have expressed concern at how the players were in tears during part of last Saturday's dramatic penalty shoot-out win against Chile.

It was also reported this week that Scolari told a select group of Brazilian journalists that he wished that he could make one change in his squad.

Scolari claimed the information had been misinterpreted and suggested that he had excluded some journalists from the meeting because he did not like them.

"I said at this time in the competition, I could add a player for the different matches from now onwards," said Scolari.

"All the coaches would like to add someone. They would add because of the characteristics of the next team but you have 23. We know they would take us to victory, we know they were selected a long time ago."

Of the meeting with certain journalists, Scolari said: "There's no way I can go down to talk to everyone. Those who were not invited it was because maybe I don't like you that much or, at that time, I didn't want to talk to you. That's what I did in 2002 and I will continue to do it.

"Men can't be jealous. No. Please. If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't. Just go to hell."

Brazil will come to a virtual standstill for tonight's quarter-final, while a national holiday has also been declared in Colombia.

"We must continue to insist we are going for the final," Scolari added. "This is a path we're going after and we have the skills to get there."

Asked if Brazil still had one hand on the trophy, Scolari said: "Yes. We are on the fifth step. There are seven steps. Those statements could not be any different. Our supporters don't expect anything different. They want us to tell them what we want, how we want to win. It couldn't be any different and shouldn't be any different."

Skipper Thiago Silva, also dismissed the claim, made by Zico among others, that the players lacked focus amid all the expectation.

Silva was close to tears in the tunnel before the Chile game, as was Neymar during the national anthem, while Victor, the reserve goalkeeper, handed Julio Cesar a crucifix before the penalty shoot-out.

Such visible emotion has led to criticism of Silva's leadership, but he insisted: "I don't care what people think because no one knows me. I am emotional and it's a natural thing for human beings to be emotional. It doesn't affect me at any time on the pitch. People are saying silly things.

"I have overcome many things in life, not only on the pitch. I overcame tuberculosis. I was at risk of losing my life, I am a champion."

Scolari then interjected with an anecdote from when Portugal knocked England out of the 2004 European Championship quarter-final on penalties.

"Luis Figo was substituted and in the changing-room," he said. "After the penalties, which we won, people were asking why Figo was not on the pitch.

"But Figo had been in the changing-room and was in front of the saint praying for his colleagues. Everyone acts in a different way.

"Some pray by bending on one knee, others open hands to thank God, I kiss my necklace. We have to respect individualities. Sometimes you can analyse in a different manner."

With Luis Gustavo suspended, the question for Brazil is who will partner Fernandinho in central midfield.

The expectation is that Paulinho will regain his place, although Chelsea's Ramires is also in contention. Neymar is said to be recovered from knee and thigh injuries.

Colombia have not beaten Brazil since 1991 – and only won two of their previous 25 matches – although the last four have ended in a draw.

Colombia, though, are the only country in the tournament to have won all four of their matches inside 90 minutes.

"We respect and admire but we have skills which might cause a lot of damage to Colombia," said Scolari.

"They are more technical than Chile.

"Colombia is a better team but there's no war with Colombia.

"Our wars are against Chile, Uruguay, Argentina. Our matches against Colombia are friendly matches, happy matches. There's no big rivalry. Our players feel more at ease." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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