Brazil’s last World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will return to lead the national soccer team following the dismissal of Mano Menezes.
Scolari, 64, was in charge when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 to secure a record fifth title in Japan in 2002, and will return, newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo said, without citing anyone. The Brazilian soccer federation fired Menezes on Nov. 23, and said it will hold a press conference tomorrow. Federation spokesman Rodrigo Paiva declined to confirm that Scolari would take over.
The change in management comes as Brazil, usually among the world’s top teams, has fallen behind regional rivals Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia to stand 13th in world soccer ruling body FIFA’s rankings. Speculation about Menezes’s future grew after the team failed to win a gold medal at the London Summer Olympics and was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Copa America a year earlier. South America’s most-populous country will host the World Cup in 2014.
Scolari coached the Portuguese national team before taking lucrative assignments with Chelsea of England’s Premier League and Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor. The man popularly known as “Big Phil” was fired Sept. 13 by Palmeiras following poor results.
The former Palmeiras coach has had some of the richest contracts in soccer management. Media reports said he earned 13 million euros ($17 million) a year in Uzbekistan while his time at Chelsea was worth more than 16 million pounds ($25.6 million) even though he lasted only seven months of a four-year contract. Chelsea has since changed the way it pays severance to managers fired by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
Menezes, an ex-coach of Corinthians, took over on July 24, 2010, after Carlos Dunga’s squad lost in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa.
Scolari won 18 out of 24 games he oversaw during his one-year spell in charge of the national team between 2001 and 2002. Menezes, in his almost 2 1/2 years, recorded 21 wins in 33 games. His last game was a 2-1 loss to Argentina Nov. 21.
The country is set to host the next World Cup from June 12 to July 13, 2014.