From then on, Felipo stayed ahead of the team in 75 matches. There were 40 victories, 23 draws and 12 defeats – a utilization of 63.5% of the disputed points. Despite the good numbers, the beginning of the trajectory in the capital of Minas Gerais was not the best. In the second half of 2000, Cruzeiro de Scolari accumulated frustrations.
Leader of the Blue Module of the Joo Havelange Cup – the name used for the Brazilian Championship of that season -, the team from Minas reached the knockout stage with morale. In the first duel, he eliminated the old Malutrom, from Paran. Then he overcame Internacional. In the semifinal, however, he fell Basque de Romrio, who had a great performance in Mineiro and would become champion by beating So Caetano in the decision.
Alongside Joo Havelange’s dispute, Cruzeiro de Felipo participated in the extinct Mercosur Cup. After leading Group B, the celestial team fell right in the first knockout to the Palm Trees, former club of Scolari. There were two São Paulo triumphs in those quarterfinals.
The highlight of the 71-year-old coach’s career at Cruzeiro was in 2001, with the title of Copa Sul-Minas. The team had an irreproachable campaign, with the right to eliminate rival Atltico in the semifinals. The undefeated campaign was crowned with two victories over Coritiba in the final.
The season sequence, however, was not the best. Cruzeiro had a disappointing campaign in the Mineiro Championship and finished the competition in fourth place. In the Copa Libertadores, however, the numbers were much higher. The team led Group 4, with 16 points from six games. It was the third best campaign of this stage of the tournament, after only Vasco and Palmeiras.
In the continental knockout stage, Scolari’s men beat Ecuador’s El Nacional in the round of 16. In the next phase, they faced an old acquaintance: the Palm Trees. And the paulistas took the best one again. After two draws, goalkeeper Marcos shone in the dispute for penalties and decreed the celestial elimination in the middle of Mineiro.
Leaving for the Brazilian National Team
In June of that year, Felipo ended his first trip to Cruzeiro. The gacho, 52 years old, accepted the challenge of training the Brazilian National Team and was released by the heavenly club. And the rest of the story: guaranteed classification in the Qualifiers and title of the 2002 World Cup, played in South Korea and Japan.
Return to ‘home’ tradition in Scolari’s career. So, for example, in Palmeiras, Thunder and in the Brazilian team itself. Now, the coach arrives at Toca da Raposa with a contract until the end of 2022 and the challenges of taking the Z4 Cruzeiro from Series B of the Brazilian Championship and, at best, putting the team back in the First Division in the centennial year.
Felipo numbers on the cruise
2000: 38 games, 18 wins, 13 draws and 7 defeats (58.77% success rate)
2001: 37 games, 22 wins, 10 draws and 5 losses (68.47% success rate)