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Brazil still sans coach
- Speculation rife over Scolari’s successor

Rio de Janeiro: Brazil ended 2002 — the year they won an unprecedented fifth World Cup — without a coach for the national football team.

The South Americans have yet to find a replacement for Luiz Felipe Scolari, who stepped down in early August, five weeks after leading his team to seven straight wins at the Japan and South Korea tournament.

Brazil have played two friendlies since, losing 0-1 at home to Paraguay in Scolari’s farewell match and then winning 3-2 away to South Korea.

Veteran Mario Zagallo, who led Brazil at the 1970, 1974 and 1998 World Cups, was brought back for that game as a tribute.

Although the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has a reputation for making important announcements out of the blue, nobody is expecting Scolari’s long-term replacement to be named in a hurry.

But the world champions are running out of time. The road to Germany 2006 is expected to start next August to allow time for South America to fit in its marathon qualifying tournament in which the ten teams play each other twice.

And with Fifa having reduced South America’s World Cup slots to four, the contest will prove tougher than ever for Brazil, who have often found the qualifying competition harder work than the World Cup itself.

CBF president Ricardo Teixeira had been hoping this year’s Brazilian championship would point him in the right direction but its outcome has not helped him in the least.

The competition was won by a young Santos team brilliantly coached by Emerson Leao — who was unceremoniously sacked by Teixeira in June 2001 after only eight months in charge of Brazil.

Asked if he wanted the Brazil job back, Leao — who learned of his dismissal as he was about to board a flight at Tokyo airport after the Confederations Cup — replied: “No, not with him (Teixeira) in charge.”

The other obvious candidate would have been Carlos Alberto Parreira, whose Corinthians team won the Rio-Sao Paulo tournament and the Copa Brasil and finished runners-up to Santos in the Brazilian championship.

But Parreira has already tasted life in the Brazil hot seat, having led the victorious 1994 World Cup team, and has made it clear he would be reluctant to go through the experience again.

That has left Sao Paulo coach Oswaldo Oliveira as many people’s favourite, although his club had a frustrating season this year.

The Brazilian media have not ruled out a comeback opportunity for Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who was sacked in disgrace following the Sydney Olympics just over two years ago.

Luxemburgo was later grilled by a Congressional commission of inquiry over his tax returns.

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