Struggling Palmeiras and Scolari end contract
Palmeiras said Thursday that its contract with Brazil's former World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has been terminated by mutual consent as the team continues to struggle in the national league.
Palmeiras made the announcement a day after a 3-1 loss to Vasco da Gama, a result that dropped the club to second-to-last in the 20-team standings. A replacement has not been announced yet.
There had been reports that the coach would be fired, but Palmeiras released a statement saying that the decision was made by ''mutual agreement'' and thanked Scolari, ''one of the greatest coaches in the club's history.''
Palmeiras, the Brazilian club with the most national titles, has lost 14 of its 24 league matches and is seven points from safety with 14 games left to play. Palmeiras won only five times and drew other five.
Scolari, who won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, recently led Palmeiras to the Brazilian Cup title, the team's first major trophy since the 1999 Copa Libertadores. Both the Copa Libertadores and the 1998 Brazilian Cup titles came in Scolari's previous stint at the club.
He is one of the Palmeiras' all-time idols, but fans started criticizing him following the team's disappointing results since he took over in July 2010. The team finished 10th in that year's Brazilian league and 11th a year ago. He led Palmeiras to the semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana in 2010, but the club was eliminated at home to Goias despite winning the first leg away.
Palmeiras won this year's Brazilian Cup unbeaten and the title lifted some of the pressure off the coach, but the dismal results in the Brazilian league revived criticism against him.
Palmeiras has lost five of its last seven matches, winning only once in that span. Palmeiras has 20 points, 33 less than leader Fluminense and three more than last place Atletico Goianiense. The bottom four clubs will be relegated to the second division, which has already happened to Palmeiras in 2002.
With his focus on the Brazilian Cup, Scolari rested most of Palmeiras' regular starters in the beginning of the Brazilian league, and the team's first win came only in the seventh round. Palmeiras will face rival Corinthians on Sunday at the Pacaembu stadium.
This year's team is led by Argentina striker Hernan Barcos, Chilean midfielder Jorge Valdivia and former Real Betis and AS Roma midfielder Marcos Assuncao. The team is also playing in the last 16 of this year's Copa Sudamericana.
Scolari's contract with Palmeiras was due to finish at the end of the year and the coach had already said he didn't plan to extend it. He had publicly said that he wanted to manage a national team in the 2014 World Cup that Brazil will host.
With current Brazil coach Mano Menezes also under pressure, there is already talk in local media about Scolari possibly replacing him now.
The 63-year-old Scolari coached Portugal to the final of the 2004 European Championship, as host, and to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. He had a spell at Chelsea and Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor before returning to Palmeiras.
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