Luiz Felipe Scolari (Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, June 7: Luiz Felipe Scolari defended his team’s World Cup preparations after sections of the crowd booed his players during a labored 1-0 win over Serbia on Friday.
Scolari had opined after Tuesday’s 4-0 waltz over Panama he saw room for improvement and would not let that winning margin pull the wool over his eyes.
After Fred’s toepoke winner just saw off the Serbs, the architect of Brazil’s 2002 triumph in Japan decided this time he would revert to playing good cop and protect his side from the critics in the stands and the media.
Scolari had noted before the game that the five-time world champions often get a rough ride from fans in Brazil’s business hub and Friday was no exception at the Morumbi stadium, which will not see World Cup action.
“I think we come into the World Cup in good shape. We are keen for things to get started now,” said Scolari after a win six days before the hosts meet Croatia on the other side of the city at the brand new, much-delayed Corinthians Arena.
“We’ve planned well in advance,” he insisted, adding he would take a win however slender as a morale-booster and a goal however scrappy — Fred produced a similar from-the-deck finish in the Confederations Cup final against Spain last year.
“Both teams went for it and I was very impressed with Serbia,” said Scolari. When I saw their line-up at the start I knew it would be a tough match to win.”
Scolari brushed off the restive reaction of the Sao Paulo crowd after the win, saying his team had got used to being booed by fans.
“There were some (boos) in Goiania as well,” he said, referring to the Panama match.
“It’s normal and the players don’t take it to heart. I think at the end, of the 67,000 fans 65,000 will go home satisfied.”
Asked to explain his substitution of Oscar, who enjoyed camp leave earlier in the week to attend the birth of his daughter, to give 45 minutes to Chelsea teammate Willian, Scolari said pithily: “I am the guy who picks the team. I am the guy who is paid for that.
He added: “I have good players in Oscar’s position,” to give him a range of options in midfield.
“I have an excellent team,” Scolari concluded.
But he warned that everybody in the squad now had to put their tournament faces on and “that requires a lot of sacrifice,” he stressed.
Striker Hulk said it was normal the players would not necessarily hit the heights all of the time as they look to hone their performances for the Cup ahead of pool matches against Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
“This is normal — we are coming off some very tough training sessions. We have to make sure everything is right on the nail come June 12,” he told reporters.
“It was a tough game and we only managed to get it under control once we had scored,” said the St Petersburg striker.
Oscar said he had struggled to find his game.
“The Serbians closed us down and gave us very little scape. I didn’t show what I am capable of — but we have more time to work on things.”
He confessed he was aware of the media talk that Willian should perhaps start instead of him next week after some fine form in training in recent days.
But skipper Thiago Silva insisted that the mood in the camp was calm.
“He (Oscar) is not down — I think he’s even more motivated with the birth of (daughter) Julinha. Everybody is calm.”
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