Felipão Returns to Brazil

With the recent win on penalties over their rivals, the Argentinians, Brazil confusingly fired their manager Mano Menezes. The underpinning reason was that he simply did not have enough experience to manage a team to the nation’s 6th World Cup win. And this is the context in which we must view this change; Brazil is meant to win World Cups.

It is a relationship the Brazilian population understands well. Brazil is not the birthplace but the home of football. Say what you will about Spain but Brazil always enter a competition expecting they should come out with gold lifted above their heads. Recently I wrote about the new young core being brought in and how they were poised to do well in future competitions, which only makes us question further whether or not they should have fired Mano.

Mano Menezes, former manager of Corinthians, originally went to them as they had just been demoted into the Brazilian 2nd division, Serie B. He then helped them obtain promotion and a cup win the year after that. This led him onto the Brazil job, coming in for a much criticized Dunga.

He has now been replaced by an old Brazil favorite, Felipão (aka Luis Felipe Scolari or ‘Big Phil’). Felipão helped Brazil, along with 3 of the top five FIFA world player of the year winners, win its 5th, record-breaking World Cup. He spent one year with the national team and in that time he managed 24 games, winning 18 of them (75%).

From there, he went on to manage a considerably less talented Portugal through to the Euro Finals (via the Wink-gate game) and their second ever World Cups Semis. In total, Felipão spent 5 years and 74 games at the helm of the Portugal and finished with 42 wins (56%).

Then there was a switch to Chelsea, possibly motivated by Russian oil money, giving him the chance to prove to himself and the world that he was more than a national manager and that he could manage on a day by day basis, as he had done in his pre-Brazil career. During that time he had managed many clubs but produced what may seem like surprising statistics; from 1982 to 2001 he didn’t have a winning percentage over 50% with any single club but one, Jubilo Iwata (J1 League) where he had 67%.

His move from Portugal to Chelsea didn’t end successfully, where he became known as Big Phil and was another casualty of the high expectation of post-Mourinho Chelsea. In the time since Mourinho’s tenure ended, Felipão holds the worst winning record percentage for a Chelsea manager (1% below Villas-Boas).

Then came a short year in Uzbekistan before he headed back to Palmeiras, the club he had managed the longest in his career – 254 games between 1997-2000. He managed to inspire them to an undefeated cup run leading to the Copa do Brazil and entry to next year’s Libertadores. However, 5 months later Palmeiras were relegated and now Felipão is the new manager to the 5-time World Cup winning Brazil national team. Evidently Brazil want a manager capable of winning knock-out tournaments, not of endurance based leagues.

So now he is back to where he had his best career year, with a group he is unfamiliar with, unless they were able to score for his most recently managed team. But then again, who did he know personally from the 2002 team? Furthermore, he has proved he is good at winning knock-out cups; of his 19 titles 18 are knock-out cups, although many of them are regional state cups in Brazil.

Walking through knock-out stags and winning cups is what Brazil really cares about, and for that reason Felipão could be just what they need. From another perspective, after a poor club record Brazil might be just what Felipão needs. If he can scratch their back, they will surely scratch his.

Xavier Ribeiro


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