Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Luiz Felipe Scolari: this is Brazil's World Cup

Been there, done it: Luiz Felipe Scolari led Brazil to their last World Cup victory in 2002 during his first spell in charge
Been there, done it: Luiz Felipe Scolari led Brazil to their last World Cup victory in 2002 during his first spell in charge

Head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has claimed this is Brazil's World Cup ahead of the opening match against Croatia.

After years of preparation, the 20th edition of the tournament kicks off in Sao Paulo tonight at the new Arena Corinthians.

This is the second time Brazil have hosted the World Cup and they will be praying it is more successful than in 1950, when the Selecao fell at the final hurdle against Uruguay at the Maracana.

That remains the only time a clear favourite playing in front of a home crowd has lost the final, and it is a fate Scolari is confident will not be repeated this year.

"To all Brazilians, I want to tell you the time has arrived," the last man to lead the country to World Cup glory said. "This is our World Cup.

"There are seven steps. We have to go up those seven steps but to start we have to think of the first step. We can't jump the seven steps.

"The first step is against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."

Much of Brazil's hope and expectation is being shouldered by 22-year-old Barcelona forward Neymar.

Player of the tournament at last year's Confederation Cup, he cannot wait to get their tilt at a sixth crown started.

"We hope that this last day goes by very quickly," Neymar said.

"I am anxious of course but also I'm extremely happy being where I am today because many people would like to be here.

"I really hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of the players, and Brazilians, which is to win the World Cup."

As if Croatia's task was not difficult enough, they will be without key man Mario Mandzukic through suspension and had to replace the injured Ivan Mocinic with Milan Badelj on the eve of the game.

Some bookmakers price them as far out as 12/1 to win the match, yet manager Niko Kovac is confident his side will not be rolled over.

"Let's be realistic, Brazil are the hosts and a great favourite," Kovac said. "We come to play the best we can, leave the right impression and show heart on the field.

"The players are eager for this match, the training is going strong and sharp. They are all professionals and they want to play and impose themselves.

"I am optimistic we're not going to Sao Paulo to raise the white flag."

World Cup 2014 opening game: Brazil v Croatia match preview

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