RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) were wrong to sack national coach Mario Menezes last month and replace him with Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazilian football great Mario Zagallo said on Tuesday.
The 81-year-old, who won the World Cup twice as a player in 1958 and 1962 before becoming the first man to also win the title as a coach in 1970, said he was optimistic that 2002 World Cup winning coach Scolari could do a good job, but now was the wrong time to get rid of Menezes.
Menezes, 50, replaced Dunga after the 2010 World Cup finals and had come under pressure because of Brazil’s failure to win last year’s Copa America and their loss to Mexico in the London Olympics final before he was fired last month.
”I like Scolari as a friend and he will be working with Carlos Alberto Perreira and I have faith in them to do well,“ Zagallo told reporters at the Maracana Stadium. ”But it was not the right time for the CBF to sack Mario Menezes.
”Things were getting better, all the Brazilians felt the same way. But it is the CBF’s responsibility and they took that decision but for me it was not the right time.
“Now, with 18 months to go the team is in the hands of two experienced coaches and although there is always uncertainty, I would think that Scolari thinks like me and is only thinking of winning the World Cup and would not be fearful of losing.”
Zagallo was meeting members of the international media at the Maracana, which will be the venue for the 2014 World Cup final, also said he was delighted that Santos striker Neymar had decided to stay in Brazil and learn his trade.
“Neymar is a great player, but he is a boy, he is 19 years old, and he lacks people he can look up to,” said Zagallo.
”He needs someone beside him, he still needs to learn.
“Another boy, Pele, had ... players to inspire him such as Garrincha, Vava, Nilson Santos and even Zagallo, who is with you now,” he said laughing in reference to the 1958 World Cup-winning team that included a then 17-year-old Pele.
Zagallo, still a revered figure in Brazilian football, said he was delighted to be speaking at the Maracana, which has had a $US440 million refurbishment for the finals, as he first played there as a 16-year-old.
The stadium is expected to be completed early next year with a capacity of 78,000 and Icaro Moreno, the chief government engineer responsible for the project, said they would have three test events before the first official match on June 16 between Mexico and Italy at the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury