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Q & A: Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari

Posted: Tuesday April 23, 2002 2:49 PM

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What do you think of the draw?
The Brazilian media have written it off as very easy, but we don't see it that way. We have respect for the teams we are going to face. We know that in football today -- and there are examples everywhere -- nobody wins before the game has started and nobody wins on the basis of the names in the team. They win if they produce the goods on the field. Turkey have improved in the past seven or eight years, and their clubs have been very successful in Europe. They are very fast, physically strong and their movement is good. Costa Rica play similar football to Brazil, they have a good touch, close passing and good technique. Nobody gets a free place at the World Cup.

Who are your key players?
The most important thing is to have a unified group. The national team should be like a family. Everybody has to get on with everybody else and be prepared to save everyone else's skin. As an example, I once played in a marvelous team, Caxias. Our group was spectacular, we played an excellent championship, then they brought in three very good players. But one took the place of a player we liked a lot. The central defender who played alongside me told me: "I'm not going to cover for him. I don't like him. He goes up to join the attack and doesn't come back; I'm not doing his work for him." We lost the next game 5-1. It is handy for a football team to have a leader and today, for example, we have Emerson, who is a person everyone listens to and who is an example off the field, so we try to give him more responsibilities.

Who will win the World Cup?
France and Argentina are ahead of the rest, but I have a lot of belief in Brazil. I have absolute confidence that we will get to the last four, and the supporters can demand explanations if we don't.

Who will be the surprises?
Uruguay will show their traditional determination, which overcomes a lot of other weaknesses. Ecuador will be a surprise; they have good players who have speed and will prove that Ecuador are no longer the poor relations. But Portugal are the most likely to spring a surprise. This is their best team since 1966, and from what I saw in the qualifiers, they will go far.

Will the conditions affect you?
We will travel to South Korea in stages, stopping in Spain to play a friendly against a Catalan XI and then in Malaysia for a few days to adapt to the time difference. It's important to limit the use of cellular phones by the players. When it's midday in Brazil, it's midnight in South Korea, and we don't want players being woken up in the middle of the night and then being dead on their feet at training.

South American players have long had a reputation for gamesmanship, but nowadays European players are probably worse and seem to be better at getting away with it. Do you find this a problem?
Everybody does it, but the media talk much more about the South Americans. European referees clamp down more on South American players than they do on European players. When it happens in Europe, the opponent reacts with disgust as if it were something out of this world, as if it were unethical. Here, the South American player sees it as a merit, as cunning, they like to think they pulled a fast one on the opponent and the referee. But when we play outside South America we pay the price.

The Brazilians do not just want their team to win. They want Brazil to play with gusto. Is it possible to do both?
You play with joy when you get the right result. How can you play with joy if you lose? Imagine if we go to the World Cup and play three wonderful games, all out of this world -- and we don't qualify. What's the point in that? We have to ally the two things but always looking for the objective. If we have to play ugly to reach the objective, we will play ugly. What's the point of a Cup? To be champions.

Were you affected by the heavy criticism early on in your tenure, especially after the defeats by Honduras and Bolivia?
I felt the pressure and difficulties in adapting because I have always been a club coach and when I got to the national team it was different. You have to know a few things, it takes three months to get to know the players. Then the snowball starts and there are always people that like one player or the other, there are always interests here and there. I have sons aged 17 and 10, and, of course, at school, there's always a joke here, a joke there, more comments in the street, etc. At one point, it got to them a bit -- the mickey-taking on television -- they were upset and they asked me if it was worth it. In time, and as I began getting the taste for the selecao, I told them it was. Now, I'm extremely happy to be in charge of the national team.

Carlos Alberto Parreira won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 but was vilified constantly by the critics and even jeered by Brazilian fans at the Final. How do you explain that?
It amazes me. Parreira should be revered because he demonstrated the meaning of having belief in your work. Everybody was against him but he said he would reach his objective and he did. He also made the players believe it, and that was to his great credit. In 1982, we had a spectacular team but, at the moment when we could have sat back and administered a situation (needing a draw against Italy), we kept attacking and playing pretty football. For that reason,1982 didn't go down in history as Brazil's Cup. Who went down in history? Parreira in '94.

Have the problems involving the Brazilian federation (CBF) and its president, Ricardo Teixeira, affected you and the team?
The CBF has given me the conditions I needed. The president has always told me we will go to the Cup together. If he gives me his word, why will I doubt it?

 
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