Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Sunday hit back at claims by Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal that Fifa have manipulated the World Cup schedule in the hosts’ favour.
When Brazil kick off against Cameroon in Group A at the National Stadium in the capital Brasilia on Monday afternoon, they will know who out of Chile and the Netherlands, who meet earlier in the day, will have topped Group B.
It means Brazil will know who they would play depending on whether they finish first or second in their group.
Not that their qualification is yet secured as Scolari’s side still need a draw from their clash with Volker Finke’s embattled Cameroon to be certain of reaching the knockout stages.
A defeat would leave them hoping that Mexico beat Croatia in the other Group A game, being played at the same time in Recife, in order to progress. Scolari is eager to ensure his players are focused only on the task at hand.
“The first thing we need to think about is winning and going through. Some people have already said that we are going to choose our opponents. They are either being stupid or malicious,” said Scolari, 65.
“If we lose, we might not go through. For us, it is not a question of choosing anyone.”
Van Gaal had called it “ridiculous” that Brazil would play after his team, having previously played their first two group games before the Dutch, and accused the tournament organisers of playing “tricks”.
However, many Brazilians are concerned that the Selecao would struggle to beat whoever they might face in the first knockout round. This after less than convincing performances in beating Croatia and drawing with Mexico in their two matches so far.
Despite that, Scolari said at his eve-of-game press conference at the National Stadium that he will not make any significant changes to his starting line-up against Cameroon. He confirmed that Hulk will return in place of Ramires after sitting out the 0-0 stalemate with Mexico due to a minor hamstring problem.
“I am not going to make any changes. I have faith in the players who played in the first game,” said Scolari.
That means under-performing duo Fred and Paulinho are set to maintain their places in the team. The coach and captain Thiago Silva spoke out in defence of the duo.
“I have blind faith in Paulinho. I like him as a player and admire him as a person. Tomorrow (Monday) I think he will be at a better level,” said Scolari of the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder. This after Silva had insisted that Fred’s role in the side was about much more than scoring goals.
“Fred continues to be important for the team. He doesn’t need to score in every game but he has to participate and help the team,” said Paris Saint-Germain star Silva of Fred, who has failed to muster a shot on goal in either match thus far.
“Strikers live on goals, but he is experienced and relaxed. If he doesn’t score (against Cameroon) he will certainly help others to do so.
“We want to show we are a good team and can play collectively in the best manner possible. In recent games we have had some problems, but that is normal at a World Cup,” added the centre-back.