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Mar 6, 2014

Scolari: Friendly cleared up doubts

Brazilian superstar Neymar made a little boy's dream come true by scooping him up after he tried to invade the pitch.

SAO PAULO -- Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seems pretty pleased with himself, and his coaching acumen.

With the World Cup about three months away, Scolari tested a few new players in the team's final match before announcing the final squad on May 7. The 2002 World Cup-winning coach liked what he saw in the 5-0 win over South Africa in Johannesburg.

Scolari said Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho and Bayern Munich right back Rafinha -- both late additions to the team and likely with their last chance to prove their worth -- played up to expectations.

"I liked how both players performed," Scolari said. "Rafinha is fully integrated to this group and I could see Fernandinho playing in two different positions at midfield. He did well, and not only because of the great goal that he scored."

Scolari has his final squad list nearly complete, and Wednesday's friendly helped him eliminate some of the doubts that could still be lingering.

Fernandinho scored one of Brazil's goals with a remarkable long-range shot into the upper left corner. Neymar had a hat trick and Oscar added another at Soccer City Stadium.

"I'm adding names to the list and then I'll have more options to make my final decision on the 23 players," Scolari said.

Fernandinho and Rafinha were the surprise names picked by Scolari for the friendly. Rafinha would likely be a reserve for Daniel Alves, and he is fighting for a spot with veteran Maicon, a starter at the 2010 World Cup. Fernandinho seems to be in a battle with Lucas Leiva and Hernanes.

"This (match) was important for me," Fernandinho said after the win. "This is what I had planned."

Brazil's staring 11 will likely be the same team that won the Confederations Cup title last year. Scolari said he has decided on about 95 percent of the 23 names that will be at the World Cup, but he wants options in case his favorites can't play.

"Players get injured all the time and it can happen just days before the list has to be announced. Or in these two months we may discover a phenomenon, who knows?" he said. "I won't close any doors."

Scolari will choose seven additional players who will serve as alternates and can make the 23-man list until days before the opener against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.

Brazil is likely to play two more matches before then, against Panama on June 3 and Serbia on June 6. Both matches will be in Brazil.

"So far," Scolari said, "we are very satisfied with the way the things are going." ___

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