Sao Paulo: Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari says he isn't afraid of dropping Neymar from Brazil's starting lineup if the star striker fails to find his best form. Scolari is continuing to support Neymar despite another lackluster match by the youngster in Brazil's 1-1 draw with Russia in a friendly in London on Monday. However, the coach says he won't hesitate to replace him if he feels it will be good for the team.
Neymar again failed to provide the spark Brazilian fans expect from him and was mostly ineffective against Russia, but Scolari says he was not totally unhappy with the forward's performance and said he helped tactically. The coach reminded the Santos player, though, that popularity alone is not enough to guarantee him a spot in the Brazil team.
"He has been playing more for the team recently," Scolari said. "He used to try to do everything by himself before. Now he has been playing for the team and is doing a good job at that. But he is not irreplaceable and he knows it."
Scolari recalled the time he benched Luis Figo while he coached Portugal at the 2004 European Championship.
"It all depends on the moment, there is no set strategy for when to replace a player," he said. "In 2004, I dropped Figo, who was one of the best players I have ever worked with. I replaced him by (Helder) Postiga and it worked at the time. It's all about feeling."
Scolari also dismissed popular pressure when he coached Brazil for the first time, before the 2002 World Cup that the nation eventually won. Fans and local media loudly called for Scolari to pick Romario, but the coach stood firm and didn't include the former star striker in his final list for the tournament in South Korea and Japan.
The 21-year-old Neymar is touted as the future of Brazilian football and fans have been hoping the youngster will carry the team to World Cup glory at home in 2014. He is considered an undisputable starter since he arrived on the domestic scene a few years ago.
"It's just the beginning, he is just getting to know me," Neymar said about Scolari.
Neymar has received public support since he made his international debut in 2009, but is yet to replicate his club success. He carried Brazilian hopes at the 2012 Olympics in London but his team failed to return with the gold medal, unexpectedly losing to Mexico in the final. Brazil are yet to win since Scolari returned last December. Brazil's next match is at Bolivia on April 6, when only players from domestic clubs will be summoned.
As World Cup host, Brazil do not have to play in the South American qualifying tournament. Brazil will play Japan on June 15 to open the Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up tournament at home.