Menezes not upset with chants for Scolari's return
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — Mano Menezes says he was not bothered to hear fans loudly calling for World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to replace him ahead of the Brazilian national team.
The nearly 40,000 fans packing the Serra Dourada stadium on Wednesday chanted "Goodbye, Mano" and "Come back, Scolari" as Brazil struggled against Argentina in the Superclassic of the Americas. Menezes escaped even more jeers thanks to an injury-time penalty kick converted by Neymar for a 2-1 victory.
Menezes said it was expected for fans to show their appreciation for Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and is on the market again after leaving Brazilian club Palmeiras last week.
"It doesn't upset me," Menezes said. "I think it's natural, because of the circumstances. He won Brazil's fifth world title, fans like him a lot, he is a winner. I'm not bothered, I'm not losing my cool or my ability to command the team on the sideline. It's one of those things that you just put aside."
The chants calling for Scolari increased significantly after Menezes substituted promising star Lucas in the 75th minute. Lucas had been Brazil's best player until then, the one threatening the Argentine defenders the most.
"I have nothing against the fans," Menezes said. "But I'm not going to make substitutions based on what the fans think or what the fans do."
Menezes had already been loudly jeered after a lackluster 1-0 win in a friendly against South Africa two weeks ago in Sao Paulo.
Scolari's name surfaced the moment his contract with Palmeiras was mutually terminated after he failed to get the eight-time national champion out of relegation zone in the Brazilian league. The former Portugal and Chelsea coach has already said that he would like to manage a national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Players were not hiding their discontent with how the fans reacted in the central city of Goiania on Wednesday.
"I think the fans should wait until the match is over before they start complaining," Neymar said.
Striker Luis Fabiano added: "It's sad because we wished we had the support of the Brazilian fans, it would be easier."
Criticism over Menezes increased after Brazil lost the Olympic final to Mexico last month despite being a heavy favourite to win the gold medal for the first time. An 8-0 thrashing of China a few days after the disappointing performance against South Africa eased some of the pressure, but the late victory on Wednesday did little to help.
Neymar's winner from the penalty spot came after striker Juan Martinez opened the scoring for Argentina in the 20th minute and Brazil midfielder Paulinho, in an offside position, equalised in the 27th.
"Neymar saves Menezes," read a front-page headline in the sports daily Lance yesterday.
Former Brazil star striker Romario, now a congressman, has been heavily criticising Menezes and calling for his resignation. He said the coach has been the only reason Brazil has been struggling recently.
"Another unimpressive victory," Romario said on his Facebook page. "If it continues like this, Brazil won't even get past the first stage in the World Cup."