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Jul 14, 2014

The king is dead but his throne remains

FC's Craig Burley and Shaka Hislop give their take on Luiz Felipe Scolari's departure as Brazil's head coach following the Selecao's disappointing finish at the World Cup.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- And so, Luiz Felipe Scolari is all but gone despite the lack of finesse shown by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). Not only did president Jose Maria Marin fail to react to Scolari's departure being announced by a TV station on Sunday night, but he also dodged the official World Cup wrap-up event in which he would certainly be grilled about life after Big Phil. The absurd situation -- which included no comment at all by the CBF until nearly 24 hours later -- showed once again the state of numbness Brazilian football finds itself in just a week after the darkest night in its history.

It might seem too soon to start fretting about rebuilding the Selecao on the same day Germany players were still parading the trophy from the balcony of their hotel in Rio, but time is not really on the Brazilians' side.

For a start, whoever ends up being picked by Marin or incoming president Marco Polo del Nero will have less than two months before the Selecao reconvene for their first post-World Cup friendly -- against Colombia in Miami. Most important, however, is how Scolari's replacement will deal with increasing calls for a national debate about the state of the game in Brazil.

This hot topic has even reached the higher political spheres, with President Dilma Rousseff making comments about the need to reform and raising fears that the upcoming general elections will lead to a flurry of attempts at political interference in Brazilian football. But that looks like a minor side story in a much thicker plot: there is little consensus on who should be sitting in the dugout the next time Neymar and his mates take the pitch to represent their country.

- Fred: Even Pele would be booed in this team
- Duarte: What are Brazilians laughing about?
- Gilberto: Brazil problems deep-seated

Much has been said about former Corinthians and brief Inter Milan target Tite being a shoo-in for a job he seems to have been preparing for, having refused several offers after he left Corinthians last November. The possibility of his appointment, however, has had mixed reactions.

Hardly known for a brand of exciting football, Tite hails from the southern school of football in Brazil in which grit rather than style exhales from the game -- Scolari is one of the region's most famous pupils. The reports that CBF directors are willing to find a name that departs from the Scolari years suggest resistance against Tite.

Muricy Ramalho -- who famously turned down the job four years ago, paving the way for Mano Menezes' appointment -- has been defended as an option by some sectors of the media, but since leading Santos to the 2011 Copa Libertadores title, he has struggled. Even the name of Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who left the national team in disgrace 14 years ago, has been raised. The sad reality is that the situation exposes a pretty dire scenario in Brazilian football: a desert of new ideas and new names.

"Every game in the Brazilian championship looks the same to me," Selecao legend Carlos Alberto said recently. "There are no tactical novelties, everybody just tries to win with dead balls."

It's in this context that once again the discussion about a foreign coach gets reignited. When Menezes was fired in November 2012, rumors of a possible approach to Pep Guardiola proved unfounded, but it revealed some wishful thinking from the Brazilian media. The name popping up this time is Jose Mourinho's, although there's little possibility that it's anything more than Spanish newsstand fodder -- Marca was the source of the story.

Brazilians demanded Luiz Felipe Scolari's dismissal, but there are few, if any, good options for his successor.

However interesting a foreign manager could be news-wise, and even as a breath of fresh air in the game, it would be still be an appointment against all odds. For starters, Brazilians can be more insular than most when defending their football prowess. Even the recent results against Germany and the Netherlands might be insufficient to give the debate any proper momentum.

Second, Germany has proved that it is the methods rather than the man that should be imported. In his last news conference before the final in Rio, Joachim Low mused about how the German FA clocked air miles to study best practices abroad in order to implement the changes in their sporting structure.

Finally, even Pep or Jose could struggle without the right players. On the other hand, experiences such as Jorge Sampaoli's reformation of the Chilean national team made some people in Brazil purr -- perhaps not to the point of putting an Argentine in power, though.

What is starting to look more likely is a caretaker option: Alexandre Gallo, who spent the past year as the coordinator of Brazil's youth national teams, could get the job until the end of the year, allowing the CBF more time to study alternatives. He's also considered a decent bet for the U-23 squad that will form the base of the likely team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Without any professional managers working at the highest levels abroad, Brazilian football is trapped between a rock and a hard place. As much as Big Phil's departure must be seen with relief, finding a replacement will prove almost as hard as it was for him to wake up and smell the coffee after presiding over Brazil's horrendous debacle in the span of less than a week. The Selecao couldn't be more rudderless.

Fernando Duarte

A U.K.-based Brazilian football expert who has followed the Selecao for 10 years and regularly features as a pundit for media outlets in Europe, South America and Asia. He's also a Flamengo fan.