Scolari plays down crying incidents
FORTALEZA, Brazil - As far as Brazil manager Felipe Scolari is concerned, it's okay to cry.
With Brazil set to face Colombia in the World Cup quarterfinals on Friday, much has been made in recent days about the emotions pouring out of the Seleçao's players during games. They've cried during the playing of the national anthem, and Neymar, David Luiz, and goalkeeper Julio Cesar could all be seen weeping after the penalty shootout victory over Chile in the round of 16. Captain Thiago Silva was so tense he declined to take a penalty.
This has not gone over well within certain segments of the Brazilian media, who are openly questioning whether the Brazil players have the mental strength to win the tournament. The fact that Scolari called in the team's psychologist to speak with the players has only added to the feeding frenzy.
Former captain Careca, speaking to terra.com, said, "There is too much emotion. The anthem is a time to listen or sing. But then, you have to forget the problems of the home, of your child and your woman. This happens too often. The staff are unable to handle these emotions."
At Thursday's press conference, Silva was grilled over this perceived lack of control.
"I think in psychological terms, I think we're well," he said through an interpreter. "I think...what I had to do was take the pressure off. There was a lot of pressure to win that match. If you lose you go back home. The emotional burden I had was because of that. I really delivered myself. I go in with all I have. When we do things with a lot of will and desire, there's no way to not get emotional. But I think the team is calm in that sense. We're really very motivated for the match against Colombia."
Silva added he wasn't concerned about what other people were saying about the team's psychological state, and that this is just the way he is.
"This doesn't affect me at any time, inside the pitch," he said. "People are saying some silly things, that it makes it more difficult. But I don't think it makes anything difficult. Quite the contrary I think it helps me because I underwent many difficult moments in my life. I was able to overcome tuberculosis. I was running a risk of life. And I can say I'm a champion not only on the pitch, but off the pitch."
Scolari then felt compelled to come to the defense of his captain, recalling how at Euro 2004, he pulled star Luis Figo 20 minutes into the second half against England. The match went to penalties. After Portugal prevailed, it was discovered that Figo was nowhere to be found. Initially, his absence drew some criticism, but this was tempered when it turned out he was in the locker room praying to a saint.
"Everyone acts in a different way," said Scolari. "Some people bend down on one knee and pray. Other people thank god with open hands. Some, like I do, I kiss my necklace. I think we have to respect a little bit the individualities. It's not those small things that make the team be better or worse. It is the attitudes of each and every one of us. With Luis Figo, everyone understood, and the journalists said, 'Ah, well, okay. He was praying.'"
Brazil might find themselves praying against Colombia, but not in the same way they did against Chile. Scolari noted that Colombia is a more technical team, and one that isn't quite as physical as the high-pressing Chileans. This may result in a more wide open match, which might suit Brazil a bit better.
"Colombia, for a team in my concept, is a much better team" he said. "But they play playable football. There is no war with Colombia, guys. Our wars are against who? Chile, Uruguay, Argentina; we don't have anything with Colombia. Our matches against Colombia are friendly matches, happy matches, with strength and energy, each seeking their space. But there is no big rivalry. When you don't have that war, our players are much more at ease."
That, and a victory on Friday, just might keep Brazil's emotions in check.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.