Luiz Felipe Scolari

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Manuel Pellegrini hired to manage Chinese club Hebei China Fortune

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Former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has been hired by Chinese club Hebei China Fortune as the Chinese top flight adds another big name manager. He joins just three months after stepping down as manager of Manchester City in favor of Pep Guardiola.

The Chilean will match up with former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who currently heads current league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, in his first game in charge on September 10. Evergrande sits 15 points adrift of Hebei in the table. Sven-Göran Eriksson also manages in the league, in charge of Guangzhou R&F.

Pellegrini inherits a squad that includes Ezequiel Lavezzi plus former Premier Leaguers Stephane M’bia, Gervinho, and Gael Kakuta. The club currently sits in fifth in the league table out of 16 teams, with seven matches remaining in the season.

Following Pellegrini’s departure from City, the 62-year-old said he wished to remain in the Premier League, but also that he would retire if he did not receive an offer that interested him.

Pellegrini replaces former Everton midfielder Li Tie, who worked previously under Marcelo Lippi at Evergrande before being hired as Hebei manager a year ago. Tie was in hot water after criticizing the Chinese national team selection process and travel planning in early July.

Call from former coach Scolari helped Brazil avoid Olympic elimination

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazil didn’t need Marta to win at the Rio Games. All it took was a speech from its ex-coach and a couple of goals from its latest wonder kid.

A call of support from Luiz Felipe Scolari and goals by promising youngster Gabigol helped put Brazil back on track at the Olympic tournament – the hosts defeated Denmark 4-0 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and keep alive their hopes of winning the gold medal for the first time.

[ MORE: Full Olympic coverage at Olympic Talk ]

Brazil was in danger of an embarrassing elimination at home after struggling in the first two games, when frustrated fans jeered Neymar was jeered and the name of women’s star Marta was brought up by Brazilians as a solution. Fans chanted that “Marta was better than Neymar” several times across soccer host cities.

Olympic coach Rogerio Micale, in his first high-profile job, admitted he was struggling.

He got some help from a man with plenty of experience dealing with both success and adversity: Scolari, Brazil’s coach when it won the 2002 World Cup and when it was eliminated by Germany in the historic 7-1 loss in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup at home.

“I got a call from Felipao. He showed his support, wished me luck, said he had trust in the work being done,” the 47-year-old Micale said. “It was a great honor to know that he was worried with this situation all the way back in China (where he coaches). It shows what a great coach and what a great man he is.”

Scolari went through similar difficulties before the 2002 World Cup, when Brazil’s national team didn’t have the support of the home fans after almost failing to qualify to the tournament in South Korea and Japan.

[ MORE: Previewing the women’s Olympic quarterfinals ]

“He is a coach with experience,” Micale said. “He understands this moment that we were going through. He wanted to encourage us.”

Micale said he has also been getting support from senior team coach Tite, who made an important visit to the team after the disappointing scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq.

“It’s always important to have Tite around us,” he said. “His experience is always welcomed.”

The easy going Micale has been Brazil’s under-23 coach but was not expected to be head of the team at the Olympics. He was given the job when Dunga was fired and replaced by Tite, who didn’t want to take over both national teams.

Micale said he was relieved after Brazil escaped elimination with the win against Denmark on Wednesday, with goals from Gabigol and also from Luan and Gabriel Jesus, another promising star who was yet to show his potential despite high expectations. Gabriel Jesus reached a multimillion-dollar deal to transfer to Manchester City just before the tournament began, while Gabigol is expected to soon make the move to European soccer. Both players had struggled in the first two matches.

[ MORE: Argentina, Mexico bounced from men’s tournament ]

Barcelona’s Neymar also played better on Wednesday.

“The effort was there in the first matches, we tried hard but the results didn’t happen,” Neymar said. “This time we had more patience and we were able to score goals and get the result we wanted. The fans want to see goals and that didn’t happen in the previous games, so they get a little upset, but they need to understand that we are not here to joke around. We are here to play football and do our best.”

Brazil, which will play Colombia in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Sao Paulo, remains the main favorite to win the Olympic gold, which is the only major trophy the five-time World Cup champions haven’t won in soccer.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

World Cup winning manager Scolari to lead Chinese club Guangzhou

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Former Brazil and Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has agreed to take charge of Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande.

Guangzhou is known for making a splash in the managerial market. Scolari, signed to a two-and-a-half year contract, will be following Italians Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi, both previous World Cup winners.

The post will be the 21st different team Scolari has taken charge of across his 33-year managerial career. Following his departure from his six-year tenure at the helm of Portugal in 2008, the 66-year-old has taken charge of six different squads and spent no more than two seasons at any job. His most recent job was a third spell with Brazilian club Gremio, but he left in May just two matches into the 2015 league season thanks to a poor start.

“We don’t have any pressure at all although the Italian coaches had achieved great success here earlier,” Scolari said at a presentation ceremony Friday in Guangzhou. The club is coming off a league championship last season, and it won the AFC Champions League in 2013.

Scolari said he had been in contact with Guangzhou since 2011, and he has previous experience in Asia as boss of Japanese club Jubilo Iwata as well as manager of the Kuwait national team and Kuwaiti club Al Qadisiya.

“We didn’t only want his name, we also wanted his ability, experience, management skills and the whole coaching team,” said Guangzhou chairman Xu Jiayin. “And those had to be widely recognized by the world already. So it’s a risk-free choice for us to hire such a top-class world coach.”

Guangzhou has a host of Brazilian players on the squad, including Rene Junior, Alan, Elkeson and Ricardo Goulart.

Scolari wants Brazil players to “honor the shirt”

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Brazil may have a tough afternoon ahead. Just four days ago, they were demolished 7-1 by a fantastic Germany side, with Oscar’s goal in extra-time not even qualifying as a consolation. Now, they must face Netherlands to compete for third place in the World Cup, an honor that seems dubious to most.

(READ MORE: THE PRESSURE IS OFF, SO THIS ONE MIGHT BE FUN)

The hosts also must do this in front of a crowd of fans who might well be antagonistic, raining boos upon the side that humiliated themselves in the semifinal. Many Brazil supporters left at halftime of that limp defeat, but many of the ones that did stay clapped Germany, indicating their disgust and dismay at the Seleção.

Usually, third-place matches do not carry that much pressure for those participating. After all, they’ve already lost out on the chance to hoist the trophy, so they can throw caution into the wind — or at least, attackers forward. But this particular game has some significance for Brazil. They have a demoralizing defeat to get past, and the best way to do that is to put on a better performance.

Preferably, a winning one. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insists he did well to bring the team into the tournament’s top four. But at the same time, he wants his players to do their best to give the country something more to be proud of. Scolari said:

I know my career will be marked by this defeat but we have an obligation to move on and think about the next goal, which in this case is the match for third place on Saturday in Brasília. I know it’s a much smaller dream than we all wanted but we have to honor the shirt of the national team.

Brazil face Netherlands at the Estádio Nacional this afternoon. Kickoff is 4 p.m. ET.

Neymar feared he was paralyzed by challenge that ended his World Cup

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On Friday, Neymar’s World Cup came to a sickening end. An 88th minute challenge from Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zúñiga left the Brazilian stretched flat on the pitch, unable to move. The stretcher came and Neymar was carried away, leaving Brazil to ultimately secure their 2-1 victory.

Later that night came the news: Brazil might be headed for the semi-final, but Neymar wouldn’t be with them. The foul had fractured one of his vertebrae, ruling him out for four to six weeks.

But initially, Neymar and his teammates feared it to be much, much worse.

Luiz Felipe Scolari explained to Spanish newspaper Marca that Neymar initially feared he was paralyzed. “I can’t feel my legs”, the forward told teammate Marcelo, according to Scolari.

The coach continued, “Marcelo was scared and called the doctor on but the doctor couldn’t get on in the confusion. It was a big shock, the image of Neymar being stretchered off to the helicopter, in difficulty, crying.”

Brazil – the players, the coaching staff, the vast majority of the population – have been devestated by Neymar’s injury. Scolari added: “Neymar was our benchmark, one of our references because he is a player who makes a difference in any team. We’re in a situation where we’ve lost something we don’t want to miss, especially for the semi-final and final.”

It may be little consolation right now, but at least Brazil have not permanently lost Neymar. The possibility that the 22-year-old, who is so able to dazzle crowds with his impressive feats, might have been paralyzed…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.