By Brian Homewood
OSAKA (Reuters) – Former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was back to his old self on Saturday — upbeat, pulling faces and reprimanding anyone who dared ask if he was still suffering the after-effects of the infamous 7-1 World Cup defeat to Germany.
The man known as ‘Big Phil’ has found a new lease of life in Chinese football, leading Guangzhou Evergrande to the Asian Champions League title and into the Club World Cup where they face America in Sunday’s quarter-final.
A place in the semi-final against Barcelona is at stake for either Scolari’s side or the Mexicans, who are champions of CONCACAF.
As he faced the media, it was pretty much the same old Scolari who led Brazil to a World Cup title in 2002 and enjoyed a successful six-year stint with Portugal as he varied between good-natured and belligerent.
Guangzhou are unbeaten in 27 games since Scolari took over in May having previously quit Gremio, the Brazilian club who gave him a job just three weeks after the Germany debacle, and Scolari is clearly enjoying the new challenge.
In Brazil, however, he is always likely to be most remembered as the man who was in charge of the team when they suffered their greatest-ever soccer humiliation in last year’s World Cup semi-final.
He was not happy to be reminded about it by a Brazilian journalist.
“A defeat can happen anywhere, in Brazil, in Japan, in Korea, in China,” he said. “It happens. My life has gone on, and you are still working on the defeat rather than the victory.
“You can tell Brazil that I am very happy in China, really content….despite the defeat in Brazil,” added Scolari, whose facial expression varied between puzzled, as his words were translated into Chinese, and disapproving, at some of the questions which were asked.
“Fortunately, I came to China and I am continuing with my career. I’m not worried about whether I’m here, or whether I could be in Brazil or whether I could be somewhere else. I’m just following my job.”
Crowned Chinese champions in October, Guangzhou then won the Asian Champions League in November.
Scolari’s squad is made up entirely of Chinese players, except for five Brazilians, who include former Real Madrid and Manchester City forward Robinho, and one South Korean.
“Chinese football is a little different to Brazilian football,” he said.
“We have four or five Brazilians who adapted to the style of Chinese football; we have Chinese players who understand our training methods and play with our South American football philosophy.
“There is a difference but the Chinese players are working in a way that is reasonably similar to our South American concepts.”
“Chinese football is progressing, it is getting better but our team still lacks experience, and we are acquiring experience playing in competitions like this and the Asian Champions League.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)