World Cup: Big Phil made for the mayhem

World Cup: Big Phil made for the mayhem
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari gives instructions during a training session of the Brazilian national football team at the squad's Granja Comary training complex.

Brazil's team bus struggled to make its way through the chanting crowds. They were not fans. They were protestors.

Upon arriving at their training camp earlier this week, the Brazilians were greeted not with garlands, but placards. Their bus was covered with stickers emblazoned with anti-government and anti-World Cup slogans.

This was the first day of their training camp. High in the Rio hills, the Granja Comary training base has been the preferred destination for five World Cups. Now it feels like a fortress.

And, a week before setting off for their training camp, Brazil's legendary coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was revealed to be the subject of a criminal investigation in Portugal.

Brazilians reports claim Scolari is suspected of failing to declare millions of dollars in income. He has denied any wrongdoing, but the inquiry is ongoing.

Oh, and Brazil are expected to turn up and win the World Cup on home soil by demanding supporters whose exacting standards are defined by their almost religious reverence for the Beautiful Game. They do not follow the game in Brazil. They consume it. They are defined by it.

The nation's mood is often determined by the fortunes of its football team. The two are intertwined. The Brazilian government is literally banking on World Cup success. Law and order could depend on it.

Brazil might as well do away with the national anthem and tiptoe into the stadium to Queen singing Under Pressure.

Fortunately, they have a giant of a man in their corner; a fearless colossus who inhales pressure and breathes out positive energy like a psychological photosynthesis. And he isn't Neymar.

"Big Phil" Scolari carries a nation's hopes effortlessly. Rather than labour under the strain, he thrives under the white heat of the spotlight. He loves a lost cause.

When he took charge of Brazil the first time around, their mercurial form left them in danger of not qualifying with five games left. They qualified and won the 2002 World Cup.

Two years later, Scolari almost turned alchemist once more with Portugal. But all that glittered was not quite golden for the Euro 2004 hosts. They fell in the final to Greece. But his rabble-rousing capabilities were more relevant than his chalkboard tactics. He appeared on breakfast TV and the evening news almost daily, imploring the Portuguese, who were initially pessimistic, to paint their towns red.

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