SAO PAULO, Brazil – Brazil fired their national soccer team coach on Friday, looking to breathe some life into a lacklustre squad as the football-crazy nation gears up to host the 2014 World Cup.
Mano Menezes was dismissed because the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) wants a fresh start, Andres Sanchez, the CBF’s National Teams Director, said at a news conference in Sao Paulo.
“I don’t think it was for negative results; if that was the case he could have been fired last year,” said Sanchez.
“It was that the president wants to change the way things are done.”
A new coach will be chosen in early January, Sanchez added.
Menezes had been in charge since replacing Dunga shortly after Brazil’s early exit from the 2010 World Cup and was criticised for their failure to beat rivals like Netherlands and Germany and for what many fans saw as a defensive style.
Brazil is preparing to host the World Cup for the first time since 1950 and is desperate to lift the trophy on home soil. It is the only country to appear in every World Cup finals and the only nation to win it five times.
In 40 games, Menezes’ side won 27, lost seven and drew six, according to his official website (www.manomenezes.com.br).
But with Brazil qualifying automatically as hosts for the next World Cup, most of these games were friendlies, often against weak opponents such as China and Iraq.
Under Menezes, Brazil struggled against soccer powers such as Germany, Netherlands, and world and European champions Spain.
Menezes also failed to guide his side to victory in last year’s Copa America and in the Olympics, when his under-23 team surrendered meekly to Mexico in the final in London.
Although he brought a quiet elegance to the team set up off the field, the former Corinthians boss was not universally popular and was even booed by his own fans in recent months.
Brazil are 13th in FIFA’s world rankings, just one place above their lowest ever position, but many Brazilians feel the team should be demolishing opponents like South Africa.
When they struggled to beat Bafana Bafana 1-0 in a friendly in Sao Paulo in September, fans jeered Menezes and key striker Neymar. Some of them celebrated Menezes’ demise on Friday.
“This is a good day for Brazilians. Now we can win,” said psychologist Sergio Gomes, giving a thumbs-up sign of approval at a bar in the capital Brasilia.
Former Brazil great Romario also lauded the decision, calling it “overdue” and “a historic day in which Brazil should be letting off fireworks and partying.”
Although Sanchez said he was opposed to a foreign coach, some commentators have also dared suggest that Brazil should attempt to hire former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.
Whoever takes the helm in January will face intense pressure. One previous manager famously said Brazil is a country where every man, woman and child thinks they can do a better job coaching the national team than the coach himself.
The new coach’s first game will come against England at Wembley on February 6.
Four months later Brazil host the Confederations Cup, the team’s only competitive matches before they open the World Cup in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014. (Reuters)