Brazil fired up but not complacent, says coach Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari says he is satisfied with the draw but wants Brazil to stay focused during the opening phase of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Brazil will meet the Croatians in the June 12 opener in Sao Paulo.
Luiz Felipe Scolari said his side would not be complacent following a World Cup draw Friday which put the hosts in Group A with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
The five-time champions, desperate to win the trophy on home soil for the first time -- they lost out to Uruguay in 1950 in the final match in Rio and only broke their duck eight years later in Sweden -- will meet the Croatians in the June 12 opener in Sao Paulo. (Click here for World Cup draws)
But although their group does not look daunting on paper, Scolari, who led the Selecao to their last title in 2002, told reporters the favourites must not count their chickens.
"I am satisfied with the draw. But we shall be paying close attention to the opening phase," said 'Felipao', praised earlier by President Dilma Rousseff for his previous efforts in winning not just the World Cup but the Confederations Cup last June. (England coach Hodgson unhappy)
"That should give us an incentive," said Scolari, who endured recent career flops at Chelsea and Palmeiras but who has galvanised the samba stars since beginning a second spell at the helm a year ago.
Asked if he had looked beyond the group phase, Scolari said no. "I am not concerned with the second phase," he told Brazilian television. (Loew ready to face heat in Brazil)
Brazil lost to the Mexicans in the Olympic final in London last year to leave them without the only title still missing from their collection. Mexico "is a classic going way back," Scolari said.
"I am happy with the match sequence," added Scolari following a draw which sees Brazil start off in Sao Paulo before taking on the Mexicans in the heat of Fortaleza on June 17 and finishing with Cameroon on June 23 in Brasilia at the national stadium.
Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, winning coach with the Selecao in 1994 in the United States and now assisting Scolari as technical coordinator, said the World Cup had now essentially begun.
"The Cup starts when you know who you are up against. The Cup starts now," said Parreira, who dubbed the opening gambit against the Croatians as crucial.
"The opening game generates enormous pressure. Win the first match and you are well on the way to making it through," said Parreira.
The Brazilians edged out Croatia in the 2006 group phase in Germany and the Croatians have not forgotten that as they target 'revenge'.
"You beat us in Germany -- but this is a second chance for us," said Croatia coach Niko Kovac.
"It will be a great opening of the championship, a small Croatia against a big Brazil.
"Brazil will be a special motive for my team."
Croatia's former legendary coach Miroslav Ciro Blazevic, who led the country to third in the 1998 World Cup in France, said it was "evident that Brazil and Croatia are favourites" in Group A.
"But it does not mean that we should not be wary of Mexico and Cameroon. But, the draw offered something else, a big plus, and that is that the Croatia team, which is the country's best ambassador, opens the World Cup against Brazil," the 78-year-old Blazevic emphasised.
Defender Josip Simunic said it was a difficult group but stressed that "there are no easy opponents at a World Cup and it's always a pleasure to play against the best."
"There could be no nicer opening than a match against Brazil in Brazil, it will be something beautiful," the Dinamo Zagreb captain said.
" A difficult group, but I believe we will pass it," he concluded.