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   June 27, 2002 | 2130 IST


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Scolari says he went through hell

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Brian Homewood

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has taken his team from the doldrums to the final of the World Cup in only one year, admitted that his first three months in charge were "hell".

Scolari was a successful club coach with Belo Horizonte's Cruzeiro when he was suddenly invited to become his country's fourth national team coach in a year last June.

Luiz Felipe ScolariBut the man known as Big Phil (Felipao) said that he was not prepared for the change and quickly found himself in danger of making history for the wrong reasons.

A 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Uruguay in his first game left Brazil in danger of missing out on the World Cup for the first time.

"One year ago, when I took over the Brazil team there were many difficulties. We really only got to terms with the job after two or three months," he said

"The first three months were really difficult. I was not ready. I was prepared to work at Cruzeiro, my life was Cruzeiro and the Libertadores Cup (the South American equivalent of the Champions League).

"Suddenly, I was coach of Brazil, I had to pick the team, then we lost to Uruguay. It was hell.

"We were in danger of not qualifying. I was coach of the only country to have played at every World Cup and I could have been in charge when we failed for the first time.

"It was also very difficult for the players."


Scolari said that he already considered his players champions -- even if they lose to Germany on Sunday -- and said that the tournament had confirmed he was correct to leave temperamental veteran striker Romario at home in Brazil.

"A final is everything and of course we want to win but I don't want pressure on the players," said Scolari, who had said before the tournament that he would be "dead meat" in a country where anything other than winning in style is labelled as failure.

"But even if they do not win on Sunday, they will be champions in my eyes because only I know what they went through to get this far.


"For me they are already champions. I want them to feel at ease to play football."

Scolari withstood a huge wave of popular pressure this year as he refused to pick 36-year-old Romario for the team, even though the Vasco da Gama player averaged more than a goal a game in club football.

The coach, who played Romario against Uruguay but has not picked him since, said he felt the veteran penalty area specialist would not fit into a team where all the strikers are expected to move around to make space and help with the chores of marking.

"I wasn't worried about this," he said of Romario's absence.

"I was only interested in the players picked and the characteristics of the team. These characteristics, in my opinion, did not allow the selection of Romario.

"Fortunately, what I imagined worked out. The athletes in that part of the field (attack) have done their job very well. I think it has been proved that my choice was correct."

Scolari added that Brazil's dramatic rise was an example to the country itself, where most people struggle against a daily grind of poverty, injustice and violence.

"This has been marvellous for Brazil, it's fantastic for the country," he said. "It shows that we can get out of any bad situation and not just in football.

"In football terms, we have proved that Brazil is a marvellous country."

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