LONDON (Reuters) - Luiz Felipe Scolari is refusing to accept that he has lost his magic touch and believes he merits a second stint as Brazil coach, despite criticism of his recent coaching record.
The man known as “Big Phil” led Brazil to their fifth world title in 2002 before guiding Portugal to the Euro 2004 final and World Cup semi-finals in 2006. However, things have not gone so well for him since then.
Scolari, who was reappointed Brazil coach in November and faces England in his first friendly on Wednesday, lasted less than one season as Chelsea manager as he joined the long list of victims fired by owner Roman Abramovich.
He then went off the beaten track to coach Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan, winning a league title, and finally returned to Brazil in 2010 to coach Palmeiras.
Although he won the Copa Brasil title with them last year, Scolari quit shortly afterwards with the team languishing near the foot of the Brazilian championship table. They were later relegated.
Scolari, however, sees his recent record from a different perspective.
“When I left, Chelsea were in a qualifying position for the Champions League, third in the league, and still in the FA Cup,” he told a news conference at Wembley stadium.
“The (results) were reasonably good, my problems were elsewhere.”
A hoarse Scolari, battling a sore throat, also defended his voyage to Uzbekistan.
“Bundyodor won the (Uzbek) championship unbeaten with 28 wins and two draws,” he added.
”Uzbekistan are top of their World Cup qualifying group and they have never qualified before, so we must have done something right there, not just me but all the Brazilians who are there.
“Palmeiras hadn’t won anything for 10 years until last year. So I don’t know why I don’t deserve another chance with Brazil.”
Scolari, brought back for a second stint shortly after Mano Menezes was sacked after two years in charge, has been handed the challenge of leading Brazil to a sixth world title on home soil in 2014.
It is a huge job for Scolari, with Brazil languishing in 18th in the FIFA world rankings and Brazilians still remembering their failure to win the 1950 World Cup when they hosted that contest.
“Germany have hosted two World Cups and won one, Italy have hosted two World Cups and won one, Brazil have hosted won World Cup and haven’t won...” he said.
Portugal were also hosts in the Euro 2004 and Scolari said he would call on his experience from that tournament to try to rally the Brazilian public.
“There are a lot of similarities in making the fans, the public, believe in the team and that we can be world champions in 2014,” he said.
“In Portugal, we had to work with the public in the friendly matches to give them a taste for the national team. This is an identical path.”
Scolari said there would not be any radical differences from predecessor Mano Menezes, who was surprisingly sacked just as he seemed to have found his ideal team.
“It’s a continuation of the earlier work, but with my way of looking at things,” he said. “Seventy or eighty percent of this squad were being picked before, so I can’t look for excuses by saying that I only had one training session with them.”
Editing by Mark Meadows