World Cup mind games begin for Scolari and Brazil

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Luis Felipe Scolari is pulling out all the stops to ensure hosts Brazil end next summer’s World Cup as champions, with the Samba Boys undergoing psychological testing ahead of the tournament.

At present the Selecao remain favourites to claim a record sixth World Cup, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 10/3 on a Brazil victory on home soil in 2014.

But Scolari is evidently keen to make use of any and all resources available to him, with the New York Times reporting that the coach has once again recruited the services of psychotherapist Regina Brandao.

The Universidade Sao Judas Tadeu professor is a long-time collaborator with the manager, having worked with him during his previous reign as Brazil boss as well as during his successful stint in charge of Portugal.

In both instances, she seemingly proved a valuable asset, with the Selecao claiming the 2002 World Cup under Scolari, while Portugal made the final of Euro 2004 and semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup.

So far players have been asked to complete questionnaires designed to measure how affected they are by events on the field, with as many as 50 different individuals quizzed with a view to Scolari formulating his final 23-man squad for the tournament.

“My job is to draw up a psychological profile of each of the players,” Brandão explained to the New York Times.

“It is to help Scolari with the individual and the collective. It is to understand how each player feels and how that affects the way they play.”

This in-depth, psychological approach to the game has proven effective in the past, with Jurgen Klinsmann among those to adhere to the ethos during his stint as manager of Germany.

Die Mannschaft only missed out on a World Cup Final place after an extra-time defeat to Italy in 2006, but the various tests and analysis completed by Klinsmann and co appeared to pay off with key decisions such as picking Jens Lehmann ahead of 2002 hero Oliver Kahn.

In this instance, the former Arsenal man went on to show his worth with a string of penalty saves in the host’s shootout victory over Argentina, while Kahn’s only appearance at the competition was littered with a series of major errors.

Oddly enough these two national sides look to be Brazil’s nearest challengers with Germany and Argentina priced as joint second favourites for the tournament at 5/1.

But with Scolari shaping a Selecao side with the mental toughness previously lacking in 2010 and 2006, it’s tough to look beyond the Samba Boys.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.