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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
What's happened to Brazil?
Brazilian players train in swimming caps before Belgian game
Scolari has had his players training in the pool
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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So limited last year, yet scintilating in South Korea. Brazil's first-round performances have given rise to one frequently asked question:

How could Luiz Felipe Scolari's side have changed so much?

The answer lies in the nature of the coach. Scolari is a pragmatist, and pragmatism requires flexibility.

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Scolari sincerely believed that such spoiling tactics were his team's easiest path to victory
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Brazil's boss believes the end justifies the means. The end is the same - victory. But the means have been altered in response to the changing circumstances.

Last September Brazil travelled to take on Argentina. Scolari was asked before the game if he would be happy with a 0-0 draw.

"Show me a piece of paper guaranteeing us a draw and I'll sign it now," was his reply. In the event. Brazil were gifted a bizarre own goal in the first minute.

They spent the rest of the game camped in their own half, and were overhauled in the closing stages to lose 2-1.

Scolari's reaction: "We needed to commit more fouls and to waste more time by rolling around on the floor."

At that moment Scolari sincerely believed that such spoiling tactics were his team's easiest path to victory.

And then Ronaldo returned. Suddenly Brazil's attack had a focal point of pace and power, skill and intelligence.

Ronaldo's presence often brings out the best in Rivaldo. And with Ronaldinho Gaucho coming into form, Scolari took a different view of Brazil's prospects.

The individual ability of his strikers could tip the balance in his team's favour, so Scolari set about reorganising the side to reflect this new reality.

He hoped that switching the balance of the side could be done without sacrificing defensive solidity.

But there is a saying in Brazil; picking a team is like having a small blanket on a cold night: cover your neck and your feet freeze, cover your feet and your neck gets cold.

Scolari hoped to square the circle by introducing a high-pressure marking scheme he termed "the blitz". Brazil would pin the opponent in their half, with the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo working hard to close down the rival defenders.

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Individually and collectively, Brazil were full of defensive problems in what looked like a weak group
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Despite all the work on the training ground, it has not worked out the way Scolari wanted. In fact it seems to bear out one of Terry Venables' favourite maxims: the last thing you learn is the first thing you forget under pressure.

Last Thursday Costa Rica scored two goals and had another 11 clear chances.

This, emphatically, was not part of the plan. Such a defensive scheme has more to do with lottery than football.

Former coach Mario Zagallo spoke for the vast majority in Brazilian football when he pleaded with Scolari to revert to a more traditional 4-4-2 system.

Having three centre backs was supposed to make Brazil more secure at the back, giving added cover to allow Cafu and Roberto Carlos to get forward at will.

But, individually and collectively, Brazil were full of defensive problems in what looked like a weak group.

Scolari's response after the game last Thusday? "We are not committing enough fouls." As ever, the pragmatist.


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GROUP C
  P GD PTS
BRAZIL 3 +8 9
TURKEY 3 +2 4
COSTA RICA 3 -1 4
CHINA 3 -9 0

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