SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Mano Menezes has been picked to lead Brazil in World Cup 2014 in its backyard after he was named as head coach of the Seleção on July 24, a few weeks after the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) fired Dunga.
Menezes, 48, formerly coached Corinthians, which released him from his contract so he could accept one of the country’s most prestigious positions.
“Most of Brazil’s coaches would like to be in my place. I have been engaged in a certain trajectory, and I thought that one day I would end up with the Brazilian team,” Menezes said at his introductory media conference. “I guess it happened sooner than I expected. On principle I don’t turn down important invitations.”
The CBF began its search for Dunga’s replacement before the World Cup concluded. Dunga led Brazil to a record of two wins, no losses and a tie en route to winning Group G before the team cruised to a win over Chile in the round of 16.
But Brazil, which arrived in South Africa as the world’s top-ranked team, suffered a stunning, 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in which it allowed two second-half goals to lose in the quarterfinals for the second straight World Cup.
Menezes was on a three-man shortlist along with Fluminense coach Muricy Ramalho and former national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to its last World Cup title in 2002, according to media reports.
Fluminense, however, refused to let Ramalho out of his contract to accept the job, paving the way for Ricardo Teixeira, CBF’s head, to offer Menezes the job of leading Brazil to its record sixth World Cup title when the nation hosts soccer’s biggest show. Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950. Scolari will remain as the coach of Brazilian team Palmeiras.
“I talked to many people, I went to debates on several sports shows and I also listened to the fans before narrowing it down to three names,” Teixeira said. “What determined the final choice was our understanding that the immediate renewal of the Brazilian team is necessary. Mano Menezes will begin right away, coaching our friendly game against the United States on Aug. 10.”
Menezes led Corinthians of São Paulo to the Brazilian Cup title last year, a major accomplishment for a team that recently returned to the first division after it was relegated in 2007. Menezes also brought back Porto Alegre’s Grêmio into the country’s top division in 2005 after it had been relegated because of its poor play. Two years later, Menezes led Grêmio to a second-place finish in Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s top tournament that features club teams.
Corinthians President Andrés Sanchez said he had no problem freeing Menezes from his contract.
“I am not one to stand in the way of a professional advancing in his career,” Sanchez told The Associated Press. “I would never do anything to destroy the dreams of a human being, especially one like Mano, who has helped our team so much.”