In the hot seat again
Five-time world champions Brazil, desperate for success at home, have pinned their hopes on Scolari
Brazilians are proud of their ability to pull improvised solutions out of a hat and the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari as national team coach was a classic case of "jeitinho brasileiro".
At the start of the week, 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil faced the embarrassing prospect of hosting the draw for next year's Confederations Cup on Saturday without a coach after their shock decision to fire Mano Menezes.
Within 48 hours, the Brazilian federation (CBF) pulled 2002 World Cup winner Scolari out of its pocket and, as an added bonus, roped in Carlos Alberto Parreira, the coach who brought them their fourth world title in 1994, as his technical director.
The decision placated the Brazilian media, won praise from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and stopped the lobby in favour of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola in its tracks.
"We concluded that the destiny of the Brazilian national team should be left in the competent hands of people who have recognised capability and title-winning experience," said CBF president Jose Marin Marin.
Blatter welcomed the decision to name the coach this week, rather than January as previously planned.
"The Brazilian national team cannot become a no man's land," he told Brazilian media in Sao Paulo. "I'm happy they made a quick decision."
But while authorities celebrated, many Brazilians were critical of the way the national team has been led.
Menezes was sacked last Friday, just as his young team appeared to be taking shape after two years of painstaking experiments.
The eloquent coach had disbanded Dunga's unpopular, physical, counter-attacking outfit which reached the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup and built a team which played with speed, style and panache.
Menezes, however, fell out of favour when Ricardo Teixeira, who had appointed him, quit as head of the CBF in March, citing ill-health and plagued by allegations of corruption. He was replaced by 80-year-old Marin who immediately made Menezes' life uncomfortable by announcing he would vet his squad lists.
Despite failing to win the Olympic gold medal in London and losing to Argentina in June, Menezes survived until last Friday when he was fired on Marin's whim and against the wishes of national team director Andres Sanchez.† Sanchez quit on Wednesday but by that time the move to re-appoint Scolari had already gained momentum.
The whole story seemed to be a classic case of "jeitinho brasileiro", a cunning, improvised way of getting around a problem.
"The most seductive name was Guardiola, who could have brought a new philosophy to the national team and Brazilian football," wrote Alvaro Oliveira Filho, a columnist in the sports daily Lance. "But he would have needed time and, above all, a more serious leadership in the CBF."
Whether the hastily-arranged double act, which has a combined age of 133, can still deliver the goods is a different matter. Parreira has vast experience, having led Brazil, Kuwait, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, but blotted his copybook in 2006. On that occasion, a ageing and lethargic Brazilian side led by a below-par Ronaldo went out in the quarterfinals against France.
Scolari, a man who has mellowed considerably since the days television cameras caught him offering to settle his differences with a referee in the car park, is a charismatic, volatile figure with renowned powers of motivation. During six years with Portugal, he turned them from a team of underachievers into a feisty side with a competitive edge which many felt tested the limits of fair play. A European Championship final and World Cup semi-final was testament to his ability, even if neutrals did not like his methods.
"We revolutionised the relationship between the supporters and the team," said Scolari on Thursday. "I maybe didn't win anything but the work we did was worth more than 10 or 20 titles."
Since then, things have not gone so well. He became one of Roman Abramovich's victims at Chelsea, coached in club football in Uzbekistan and then returned home in 2010 to coach Palmeiras. That ended unhappily as he quit in September with the team mired in the Brazilian championship relegation zone.
Brazil appear to have lost ground on their rivals with even neighbours Argentina, themselves beset by problems of the field, well settled under coach Alejandro Sabella. With teams such as Spain and Germany reaping the benefits of long-term planning, innovatory training methods and well-defined philosophies, it make take more than patriotic fervour and Scolari's charisma to land the World Cup.