Scolari: Current Brazil side the same as Ronaldo's 2002 champions

The host nation is well placed to repeat its success in South Korea and Japan, according to its coach, who oversaw the talents of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo at that event

SAO PAULO — Luiz Felipe Scolari says his Brazil squad is “collectively the same” as the team he led to World Cup victory in 2002.

Speaking at the Arena Corinthians, where Brazil will kick off the 2014 showpiece on Thursday against Croatia, the Selecao coach told the world’s media that his current crop can emulate the Ronaldo-inspired success of 12 years ago.

“I would say that this squad and the 2002 squad are collectively the same,” said Scolari. “There was an ability in that squad which helped to change games tactically.

“This squad has players that change their games to help the team. For instance, Neymar helps to mark players if it helps the whole team."

‘Big Phil’ added that he feels his troops are ready to fulfil the dreams of the entire host nation.

"We want to thank president Dilma Rousseff for her words of support and also the fans from across the country who are backing us," he said. “The time has arrived, we are going together. This is our World Cup.”

Scolari has been hit by the deaths of his brother-in-law and nephew in the build-up to the finals beginning, but he says that football has helped him to move forward as the World Cup approaches.

“Yes, we have gone through difficult times together, but life goes on,” he added. “We do what we have to do and we go on. Each of us has a path to follow.

“I find my strength from working with these players who dedicate themselves every day and are always trying to improve. All this helps us forget the sadness and see the beauty of what is happening around you.”

Niko Kovac’s Croatia side is likely to give Brazil a tough test in the opening Group A fixture, and Scolari insists that he is focused entirely on the events of Thursday night.

“I'm thinking only of tomorrow, because we have seven steps to take and we cannot jump the first of those steps," he said. “We have prepared well, we are all fit to play, and everything that was planned was excellent… I will sleep well tonight.”