Brazil fired their national soccer team coach on Friday, looking to breathe some life into a lacklustre squad as the soccer-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 the 2010 World Cup and was criticized for his failure to beat powerful rivals like Netherlands and Germany and for what many fans believed is his 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.
Menezes’s sacking was not a major surprise, given his shaky position, but the timing was.
It came two days after Brazil won the annual Superclasico de las Americas by beating Argentina on penalties in Buenos Aires and less than a week after CBF president Jose Maria Marin said he would decide on Menezes’s fate in the new year.
In 40 games, Menezes’s side won 27, lost seven and drew six, according to his official website.
But with Brazil qualifying automatically as hosts for the 2014 World Cup, most of these games were friendlies, often against weak opponents such as China and Iraq.
Menezes team struggled against soccer powers such as Netherlands, world and European champions Spain and Germany.
He also failed to guide Brazil to victory at last year’s Copa America or at the London Olympics, when his under-23 team surrendered meekly to Mexico in the final.
Nevertheless, Menezes’s side had shown signs of gelling in recent games. They have won six of eight matches since the Olympics, scoring 26 goals in the process.
Friday’s abrupt decision was not unanimous.
“I don’t think we should be changing tack at this time,” Sanchez told reporters. “But I was overruled.”
Among those mentioned as favourites to take over are Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to their last World Cup triumph in 2002, and Tite, who took Corinthians to the Copa Libertadores title earlier this year.
Muricy Ramalho, who turned down the job before Menezes and is now Santos coach, is another contender, as is Abel Braga, who recently led Fluminense to the Brazilian championship title.
Some commentators have also dared to suggest Brazil should opt for a foreign coach and attempt to hire former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.
Whoever takes over will face a stern first test. Brazil’s next match is against England at Wembley on Feb. 6.