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Opening phase is crucial: Scolari

Costa do Sauipe: Luiz Felipe Scolari said his side would not be complacent following a World Cup draw, which put the hosts in Group A with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

The five-time champions, desperate to win the trophy on home soil for the first time — they lost to Uruguay in 1950 in the final in Rio and only broke their duck eight years later in Sweden — will meet the Croats in the June 12 opener in Sao Paulo.

Although their group does not look daunting on paper, Scolari, who led the Selecao to their last title in 2002, told reporters the favourites must not count their chickens.

“I am satisfied with the draw. But we shall be paying close attention to the opening phase,” said Scolari.

“That should give us an incentive,” added Scolari, who endured recent career flops at Chelsea and Palmeiras. But at the same time, he has galvanised the samba stars since beginning a second spell at the helm a year ago.

Asked if he had looked beyond the group phase, Scolari replied, “No. I am not concerned with the second phase.”

Brazil lost to the Mexicans in the Olympic final in London last year that left them without the only title still missing from their collection.

“Mexico is a classic going way back,” Scolari said. “I am happy with the match sequence,” added Scolari, following a draw which sees Brazil start off in Sao Paulo before taking on the Mexicans in the heat of Fortaleza on June 17 and finishing with Cameroon on June 23 in Brasilia, at the National Stadium.

Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who had guided Brazil to World Cup triumph in 1994 at the United States and now assisting Scolari as technical co-ordinator, said the World Cup had now essentially begun.

“The Cup starts when you know who you are up against. The Cup starts now,” said Parreira, who dubbed the opening gambit against the Croats as crucial. “The opening game generates enormous pressure. Win the first match and you are well on the way to making it through,” said Parreira.

Spain’s Vincent Del Bosque told Spanish television: “We can’t say we were handed an easy draw. It’s a complicated group with tough sides. It’s going to be difficult.”

On Chile, the only team Del Bosque had mentioned he would not like to meet in the group stage, the coach said: “Their style of play is very impressive, they make it very uncomfortable for opponents. They are very hard working, a very difficult team.”

Talking about the Netherlands, Del Bosque said: “They’ve changed their makeup from the midfield to the back line, but they still have dangerous players up front in Robin van Persie, Sneijder, and Robben. “We have to be prepared from day one. When you are drawn against a team that maybe isn’t quite a top rival it affects our preparation and we’re not always ready, may be, psychologically. That won’t be the case here.”