Wednesday 11 December 2019

Scolari’s tactical panic emerges as Brazil line up replacement

Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari

Jason Burt

Luiz Felipe Scolari's future as Brazil coach has been called further into question as more detail has emerged as to how he appeared to shockingly lose the plot ahead of the disastrous World Cup semi-final against Germany.

Scolari is expected to be sacked after Saturday's Third and Fourth Place Play-Off in Brasilia against Holland - with genuine fears that Brazilians fans might actually boycott the match or those who do attend may turn it into a disenchanted protest against the Selacao and the tournament as a whole.

The former coach of Sao Paulo club Corinthians, Tite, is already being lined up as Scolari's replacement, although there have been suggestions that Felipao might try to cling on to his job until the end of the year.

However, the backlash against him has become increasingly angry with Scolari having apparently changed his team selection and tactics at 11am on Wednesday - just six hours before kick-off in Belo Horizonte - much to the astonishment of the players.

Brazil had trained with three powerful midfielders in Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho and Paulinho to try and combat the strength of the formidable German midfield of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos.

But then Scolari shocked his players by changing his line-up - bringing in the diminutive winger Bernard and leaving out Paulinho and attempting to attack the Germans. It is understood Brazil did not even try this formation in training and Bernard's inclusion, plus the persistence with the out-of-form striker Fred, left some players bewildered.

The Brazil players in a heated debate after defeat to Germany. AP

There were further changes that unbalanced the team with Scolari having to include central defender Dante as a replacement for suspended captain Thiago Silva, even though the Bayern Munich player has barely featured for club and country in the last three months.

This also meant that David Luiz, who probably also should not have been chosen as captain, had to switch across to the left-hand side of the centre of defence, where he is far less comfortable. He struggled.

But it was the complete failure to try and match up to the German midfield which was most puzzling, especially with Bernard's inclusion. The 21-year-old is undoubtedly talented and Scolari may have felt that playing him at home - he is from Belo - might inspire him, Brazil and the supporters but it played into Germany's hands.

The tactics were suicidal, particularly given they had not been practised, with most commentators assuming Scolari would include the more combative Willian.

Scolari has cut a broken, distraught figure in recent days with the criticism of Neymar's agent Wagner Ribeiro that the 65-year-old coach was "an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous". Neymar later distanced himself from his agent's comments but stopped short of endorsing Scolari to carry on.

There are also real concerns that Saturday's game in Brasilia against the Dutch could take place before a half-empty stadium and with the Brazilian team being barracked. If that does happen it would seal Scolari's fate.

It seems very unlikely he will be allowed to carry on in any case with a real appetite for change after the World Cup. Tite, aged 53, is the favourite to take over having led Corinthians to the Copa Libertadores and Fifa Club World Cup (when they beat Chelsea) double in 2012.

He has been out of work since leaving Corinthians last December and is understood to be keen to take over and will also institute a change of style.

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