Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari urged his troops to sharpen up a day before their World Cup warm-up with Panama.
Scolari blasted his side after a Sunday training session, which he said he “didn’t like at all” owing to poor marking and perceived sloppiness. With only ten days to go to their opening World Cup match against Croatia in Sao Paulo, the man who led the Selecao to glory in 2002 insisted it was time to crack the whip.
On Sunday, “the marking was sloppy, we left spaces in the middle of the park and took up questionable positions,” Scolari observed. “We cannot let our attitude slip a week before the Cup. We cannot lose the identity which we forged at the Confederations Cup,” the dress rehearsal his side won almost 12 months ago.
Tuesday’s test at the Serra Dourada stadium in Goiania is the penultimate chance for Scolari to look at options in reserve. Friday against Serbia in Sao Paulo is his side’s final friendly outing before the real thing starts with the Croatians in a Group A also comprising Mexico and Cameroon.
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Scolari, calling for more inventive subtlety and tactical nous from his charges, said the players know full well what he demands and expects.
“I urged them what I always do — to be serious and play each match as if it were the last.”
Scolari can make up to six substitutions in the game against the Panamanians and said he would use the chance to run the rule over the options at his disposal.
Even so, against Croatia he will essentally keep faith with the players who saw off Spain in the Confederations final.
Scolari, who said he would have liked a few more days to prepare for the June 12 opener at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena, said Panama, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the World Cup, were not to be underestimated.
“They are a good side — we have been following their work. We have to take the game seriously and see how we are coming along.”
No easy pickings
Scolari stressed no side in Brazil’s group would be easy to beat — noting Cameroon are coming off a friendly draw with Germany, no less.
Some 20,000 fans were on hand to see Brazil train under Scolari’s watchful gaze and jostle to catch a glimpse of the likes of Neymar. Resting skipper Thiago Silva, plus midfielders Paulinho and Fernandinho, Scolari is set to give Ramires a start ahead of Hernanes and Dante. Hulk is also set to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, completing, along with Oscar and Neymar, a trident supporting spearhead Fred.
Open training session a hit
GOIANIA: Thousands of fans watched Brazil’s final training session Monday before its World Cup warm-up game against Panama. Fans arrived early at the Serra Dourada Stadium to get a glimpse of the players who will try to win the World Cup at home beginning next week.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari made reference to 20,000 people watching on, but initial estimates by police said between 5,000 and 10,000 supporters were at the stadium. Attendance at the 50,000-capacity Serra Dourada had been limited to 20,000 fans because of security reasons.
Mostly clad in Brazil’s yellow colors, fans faced long lines to get into the venue. It was free to watch the training session but fans needed to have tickets.
The crowd chanted “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil,” as they waited for their idols, then cheered loudly when the players entered the field. Fans yelled every time a player came near the sidelines or when a goal was scored.
“I’m not going to be able to watch the (Panama) match, so I had to find a way to see the players today,” said Cristiano de Castro, who brought his 2-year-old son to the Serra Dourada.
“He loves the national team, this is huge for me and for him.”