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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Luiz Felipe Scolari Falls On His Sword

Illustration for article titled Luiz Felipe Scolari Falls On His Sword

There's something about a mollywhomping that turns losers philosophical. As if there's no place to hide, no excuses that can possibly be made, and the only way to salvage some dignity is to humble yourself before a world already inclined to be sympathetic. After Brazil's 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany, Seleção coach Luiz Felipe Scolari put himself on the cross.

"Who is responsible when the team plays?" he said after the match. "Who is the coach? Who picks the team? I am. It is me. The catastrophic result can be shared with the whole group, my players will tell you that we share it. But the person responsible is me."


Scolari has been here before, in a way—it was a loss to Germany at 2008 Euros that forced him to step down as Portugal boss—but Brazil has never suffered anything quite like this. Forget that it had been 39 years since Brazil lost a competitive match on home soil. This, this whole tournament, was about righting the wrongs of 1950. It fell apart brutally, and brutally quick, in "the worst defeat Brazil has ever had."

"This has been like a nightmare you have about football...We lost the match in six minutes. In all of my 31 years I have never seen six minutes that cannot be explained as ours were."


The simplest explanation, and one where Scolari does actually deserve criticism, is in formations. The Brazilians have used an attacking 4-2-3-1 all tournament, and it's worked, if barely and cynically, but not against a team quite like Germany, which seems uniquely capable of using your own aggression against you. There was speculation that Scolari might come out a little more conservative for this match, which now sounds brilliant in retrospect. Instead it was the Germans who adapted to meet aggression with aggression, moving Sami Khedira up next to Toni Kroos. Together the two owned the midfield and shredded a Brazil side suddenly reduced to hail marys from David Luiz. Perhaps a tactical change should have been in order after 2-0, but by the time anyone could catch their breath, it was 5-0.

So put it on Scolari, because that's easier to digest than synthesizing everything that went wrong, which was everything. Scolari even took the opportunity to deflect potentially exonerating circumstances explanations. "It would have made no difference," he said of his missing pieces. "What was Neymar going to do?"

There was no talk of resigning, only of Russia and 2018. In a way, 7-1 was too humiliating a loss to quantify censure. This was an act-of-god destruction, one so total and baffling and overwhelming, it almost felt like a fluke, like something that couldn't be reproduced or explained, only prostrated before. Sport, at its cruelest and most liberating.

"Today was the worst day of my life," Scolari said. "But life goes on."

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