Scolari puts reputation on the line
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (AFP) — Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has vowed that his side will win the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro's historic Maracana Stadium this week. Now his reputation is on the line.
Known as 'Felipao', or 'Big Phil', depending on which of the many countries he has been working in, Scolari managed the Brazil side that won the World Cup for a record fifth time in Japan in 2002.
If he succeeds again he will become only the second coach, after Italy's Vittorio Pozzo (1934 and 1938), to win two World Cups.
But without star player Neymar as he goes into a semi-final against Germany, Scolari knows his nation, still traumatised by their defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 tournament it hosted, will not tolerate an upset.
"If I feared challenges, I wouldn't have achieved anything in my career," the 65-year-old said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian in November.
Scolari said after the quarter-final win against Colombia on Friday that his side had "one hand" on the trophy.
Scolari accepted the chance to return to the national side in November 2012, after Mano Menezes was sacked.
Born in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, Scolari was a limited player, but he has distinguished himself as a coach, travelling the world over the last three decades.
He has worked in Kuwait, Japan and Uzbekistan but has not been successful everywhere -- Chelsea's demanding owner Roman Abramovich sacked him after just seven months running the English Premier League side.
Nevertheless, he won the Copa Libertadores, the greatest prize in the South American club game, with both Gremio of Porto Alegre and Palmeiras of Sao Paulo, and he took Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 as well as the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup.
Now his mission is clear. "I took on the national side to be champion," he said after his return. And if he does that, he might even shave off his most prized possession.
"I don't have any authorisation to get rid of the moustache -- but we shall study proposals," he has said.