Brazil Blog: World Cup 2014 Hosts Finish Year Strong Under Phil Scolari
As international football takes a backseat to club action over the busy festive period, Luiz Felipe Scolari can put his feet up for the winter and be content.Big Phil, as the British tabloids dubbed him, celebrates a year in charge of this current stint as Brazil boss at the end of November. Following an indifferent start to his Second Coming, the Samba Boys have won 12 of the last 13 under the former World Cup winner. We need hardly say it, but the weight of expectation on Scolari to deliver that trophy again on home soil next summer is massive. Given the hot form his team are in they are rightly seen as being in pole position for such glory. Having mauled hapless Honduras 5-0 with the goals getting more sensational as the match wore on, Brazil then tackled England's conquerors Chile in their last outing of 2013. First choice wingbacks Dani Alves and Marcelo sat this latest leg of the Samba World Tour coming from Toronto, Canada out with injuries. Maicon and Maxwell deputized. One-time Manchester City flop Jo aside, however, the rest of the XI remained the first choice players from their Confederations Cup winning side. Neymar and the much-maligned Hulk swapped flanks from the first whistle against Chile. Letting the Zenit St Petersburg forward attack from his natural side paid off within 15 minutes. As Chile overplayed it in defence, Marcos Gonzalez gave the ball away to Oscar with fatal consequences. Chelsea's number 11 threaded the ball through for Hulk and he fired across Claudio Bravo. Jorge Sampaoli in the opposition dugout was forced into early substitutions, but the Samba Boys failed to capitalize further on these disruptions. Jo saw an effort deflected over when Chile failed to clear a Brazil corner, but has done little to suggest he can make the centre forward berth his own in the absence of the injured Fred. Gonzalez meanwhile atoned for his earlier error by clearing from under his own crossbar with Paulinho lurking. Tottenham Hotspur's box-to-box midfielder later worked Bravo and Hulk lashed against the angle of post and bar. Scolari saw his charges fail to take the sting of out this all South American clash, however, and Chile levelled via route one. Wigan Athletic wideman Jean Beausejour flicked on Bravo's goal kick, teeing up Eduardo Vargas to fire past an unsighted Julio Cesar into the bottom corner. David Luiz turned his back on his shot, and in this one move belied so much good recent defending in a Brazil shirt. Chile had rarely threatened, and only time will tell if Scolari chooses to punish the Chelsea centre back for this basic error. He handed PSG youngster Marquinhos his senior debut late on against Honduras and Bayern Munich's Dante has also deputized ably before. Luiz cannot take his place for granted even with little more than six months left before the World Cup. Big Phil's joker in the pack came to rescue in Toronto. Eyebrows were raised by the recall of Robinho at 29. The AC Milan forward popped up unmarked at the back post to head home a Maicon centre after Neymar showed great determination to keep an attack alive. Scolari has toyed with including members of the old guard throughout this year. Ronaldinho failed his audition early on. Kaka too came and went from the squad, but given the shortage of proper strikers Robinho rather justified his recall playing as a false number nine in both games off the bench. Expect Fred, who scored nine times in ten this year, to come back in for Brazil's March friendly with South Africa - Big Phil has said as much. Scolari must have the bulk of his squad decided. Midfield and wide options are especially plentiful and strong. In light of that there will be few surprises in the New Year when it comes to the Samba Boys roster as they close on hosting the World Cup. Got a view on Brazil? Can they win the World Cup? Who, if anyone, will fire them to glory on home soil? Have your say below.