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   June 22, 2002 | 1235 IST


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Act Now! Treat those Scratches

Back to defensive basics for Big Phil

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Brian Homewood

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari went back to his old ways as his side ground out their deserved 2-1 win over England in Friday's World Cup quarter-finals.

The man known as Big Phil had amazed his compatriots by opting for a cavalier all-out approach in their first four World Cup games.

For a man who built his reputation on the pillars of hard work, tactical discipline and tough tackling, it was completely out of character.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.Against England, the old Big Phil re-appeared.

After taking a 2-1 lead early in the second-half and then being reduced to 10 men after Ronaldinho was sent off, Scolari went back to the tactics which Brazilians have come to expect from him.

His team kept possession superbly, made time pass by taking an age over free-kicks and goal kicks, fell back en masse into defence and took the ball into the corner to frustrate their opponents.

It worked perfectly and England did not get a look in.

The second half was just like watching Gremio on their way to winning the South American Libertadores Cup under Scolari's leadership in 1995 or Palmeiras four years later -- without some of the wilder excesses such as ordering ball boys to waste time by throwing spare balls on the field.

It was also the ideal answer to the criticism that Brazil do not know how to defend.

Although Brazil scored 13 goals on their way to winning their first four games in Japan and South Korea, alarm bells began ringing after first Costa Rica, then Belgium, each carved out a hatful of chances against the Brazilians.

Costa Rica -- whose players could teach England a few things with their neat, quick passing and imaginative build-ups -- could have scored half a dozen against Brazil before their own defensive woes sent them crashing to a 5-2 defeat.

Belgium also had Brazil on the ropes before two goals in the last quarter of the game sent them packing.


Many believed that if England could exploit the same weaknesses, they could pull off a historic win.

Scolari, however, was one step ahead of his opponents.

Without warning, and without even training the new set-up, he took out attacking midfield Juninho, brought in tackling specialist Kleberson and Brazil were a different team -- less daring, less exciting to watch but more solid.

Once again, Scolari showed that he can dance according to the music.

As a club coach, he made his name by turning modest outfits into title-winning teams.

Without any big-name players, the best way to do that was by packing his defence, frustrating the opposition and catching them on the break.

Suddenly, as Brazil coach, he found himself in charge of some of the most gifted players in the world. The pragmatic Scolari quickly realised that the best way of winning was to give them the freedom to use their individual talents and send his team out to attack.

He has now shown that his Brazil can play either way, often changing their style during the course of a game.

Scolari has also managed to control the towering egos which often caused Brazil to self-destruct in the past.

From the outset, he has insisted that his squad has to be a family and that there will be now room for temperamental superstars. In line with this, veteran striker Romario, who has a long history of missing training sessions, demanding special privileges and fighting with his team-mates, was banished from the squad.

Scolari had to defy enormous popular pressure -- even Brazil's president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said he thought Romario should be included -- but he stood by his principles.

The saga dragged on for a good six months but not even a tearful outburst from Romario, in which he swallowed his pride and apologised for "anything I might have done wrong, even unconsciously", could soften Scolari's heart.

Scolari said after Friday's game: "As a coach, I have tremendous admiration for the previous teams, for everything they have done for Brazil, but I have never seen a Brazilian team with such a strong fighting spirit, with such a vibrant approach, as this team.

"I think this Brazil team is the ideal image of modern football. In addition to our qualities, we have fighting spirit."

And nobody was talking about Romario.

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