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Can Scolari's Brazil bury the ghosts of 1950?

Is Luis Felipe Scolari the man to guide Brazil back to World Cup glory?
Last modified: 7 Feb 2013 14:09

Scoring the winning goal in a World Cup final should be a wonderful experience, but the Uruguayan who broke Brazilian hearts in 1950 took little pleasure at the time.

As Alcides Ghiggia walked from the pitch after his stunning goal for a shock 2-1 win, he found the pain of tens of thousands of Brazilians crammed into the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro distressing, and his own joy was suppressed.

That's how much a home World Cup victory would have meant to Brazil.

The outpouring of grief was no illusion - they felt the loss profoundly. And it took more than one World Cup victory - Brazil now have a record five - to even start to heal the pain of losing that final.

Next year is the first World Cup Brazil will have staged since the famous final of 1950.

They have another 15 months or so to prepare and it's a good time to start gauging whether this Brazilian squad can succeed where the men of 1950 - some whose lives were ruined by defeat - spectacularly failed.

As I took my seat on a cold February night at Wembley to watch Brazil face England in a friendly, I recalled sitting here six months ago when thousands of their fans and millions back home in Brazil suffered unexpected bitter disappointment at the London Games in August.

Brazil were beaten 2-1 at Wembley by a Mexican side who deserved their victory and revelled in defying the match odds and toppling the favourites. 

While it was a relatively small disappointment compared to 1950 - which is genuinely seen by many Brazilians as the greatest tragedy in their history - the Olympic final was meant to end an inexplicably barren run at the Games.

But Brazil were poor that day under Mano Menezez. His side were toothless and Oscar wasn't the only young star who looked like a little boy lost.

And so the Brazilian Football Federation turned to what they consider a safe pair of hands - a 'big' pair of hands in Luis Felipe Scolari.

It takes a big character and a big nerve to shoulder a nation's expectations and Scolari still had a lot of stock from guiding Brazil to victory at the 2002 World Cup.

He didn't get much wrong in that tournament in Korea and Japan - and the team were particularly emphatic against Germany in the final. Scolari had special match-winners up front; Ronaldo, the most prolific goal scorer in world cup history, and the genius of Ronaldinho.

The latter was immediately recalled by Scolari for Wednesday’s game, to try and recapture the magic of a decade ago. Funny to hear him talk about being the most experienced member of the Brazilian squad, who can help the younger players. The notorious party boy grown up? 

What an opportunity for him to win another World Cup, with new stars like Neymar and Oscar around him.

Perfect mix

Scolari is delighted with the club form of his Brazilian-based superstars. Ronaldinho is revived at Atletico Mineiro, and Neymar is sticking with Santos ... for now.

But the wily old coach is looking for that perfect mix. It's not all about the stardust, and he has strong options across the field - the holding midfielders, for example, with England-based Ramires and Lucas amongst those jostling for position.

Brazil entered the England game having played too many friendlies for comfort - they could have done with the serious edge of competition. They had a surprisingly good record of two defeats in 15 games, considering the coach was sacked, but how did they look at Wembley?

Well the best thing that can be said is that now is the time to play badly - when there is time to get it right. And if you really, really have to miss a penalty, do it in a friendly a year before the serious stuff.

That said Ronaldinho was clearly mortified by missing a penalty during his 100th appearance for his country, having been recalled after a year-long absence. The famous grin had finally disappeared when he jogged back into position after seeing his lame spot kick saved by England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Wayne Rooney then punished Brazil by putting England in front before half time.

Scolari had pledged plenty of substitutions, and he got them right. One of the subs, Fred, equalised with a good finish a couple of minutes into the second half. But I'm unsure what Luis Fabiano is bringing to the party. He was cumbersome at Wembley - Hulk looks a better option to me. 

And the defence, with David Luiz, who still doesn't look right in that position, were beaten again when Frank Lampard hit a winner for England. There was nothing Julio Cesar could have done about it and the goalkeeper should be inked in for the 2014 squad. He was top quality.

There is time for Scolari to sort out his problem areas. As the man himself defiantly said, "Let’s see how England get on in Brazil!"

Some teams - I recall France in ‘98 particularly - don't really find the magic formula until the last week of the actual tournament! In fact whether or not Brazil win next year might be less to do with them and more about the quality of their fellow South Americans.

Uruguay are more fancied now than they ever were in 1950. And the quality of other nations on this continent was highlighted when both Brazil and Argentina failed to qualify for the under-20 World Cup.

Ah yes, Argentina.

I have a feeling the real Lionel Messi may finally grace an Argentina shirt in a big tournament and they might be the team who break those Brazilian hearts all over again.