Felipe Scolari, Portugal coach: Why I want to draw England

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The Independent Football

If I had to choose a group in today's World Cup draw, I would like to be with England, Brazil or Germany - because they are strong teams and there are two qualifying places. So, it is not a single confrontation that would decide your fate in the tournament. There is still the possibility of getting through even if we lose to them.

If you face them not in the group but in the knock-out stage, then it is a question of winning or going back home. Coming from the same group, we only meet them again in the final.

Portugal's credentials were demonstrated at Euro 2004 when we played England. It was a very even match. A new meeting between the two presents a daunting prospect and it is hard to say England are better than Portugal. In the game back in 2004, we were losing until the 83rd minute before coming back, taking the lead, then letting the English draw level again. So, there is a very strong balance between the two.

England are top seed but we can match them in all departments. Sven Goran Eriksson has changed the way they play, adopting a "world style of football". By this, I mean you still keep a bit of the British way with the aerial game - their win against Argentina came thanks to two headed goals - but there is more work with the ball now, and the technique has improved quite a lot since 2002.

I cannot talk much about weak links. Every time I've watched England I've paid attention to the good things they do. I do not look much to the negative side. If I keep an eye on what they are doing well, I am able to find ways to counter them.

The arrival of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard, who were not at the 2002 finals and are among the best players in the world, is the main difference between the present England side and the one at the last World Cup. They have great technique, are very competitive and are excellent at shooting. They are the ones who make England play with the ball on the ground, and the team's firepower has increased considerably.

I think England are among the four to six best teams in the world. They are doing very well, have tradition and history - qualities that generate respect from other nations. When you have experience, pedigree, good players, the others get a bit more worried and defensive-minded, opening opportunities to exploit.

The Europeans outside the élite will be in the same pot, but I do not understand why Spain are among the top seeds. They were eliminated by Portugal at Euro 2004, booked their place in the World Cup via a play-off while we finished top of our group and were unbeaten in 12 matches.

At Euro 2004 we only lost to Greece and luckily they will not be in Germany. In the World Cup qualifying, we reached a new standard. Today, we are at the same level as any other great European nations - England, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany - but we still do not have a similar record. So, this winning habit is what we have to aim for. During qualifying we were already matching them. We finished top of our group, were not beaten and were the leading goalscorers of all the European teams. Now we have to concentrate on reaching a World Cup final. We have the chance and let's seize it.

We are going to get somebody very strong, a team of the same level and a third, less ranked side. I don't want to avoid my former side Brazil. If I have to, I will play them. But I would prefer to meet them in the group stage, because after that it is all do-or-die - we never know. The Brazilian team Portugal beat in a friendly in 2003 has changed a lot. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has another system, 4-4-2 instead of 3-5-2, but if I have to face them, I will only be thinking about victory. Brazil are a great team but in world football today nobody can claim they are unbeatable.

Luck can maybe be on my side again as was the case when I was in charge of Brazil in 2002. Turkey came out from our group strongly and finished third. Costa Rica was good because they had a similar style as us, with a lot of touches. China were still a new nation, so it was easy to qualify.

I am very happy to have won it in 2002 but I have to concentrate on the team I manage now. The World Cup gave me more experience. I know a few things I did not before, the way my team and I should behave. I arrive with this background and the same desire to win it all over again.

Portugal's odds at 20-1 are about right and follow Fifa's rankings - they place us at 10th and at the World Cup, there will be at least seven or eight teams ranked above us. So eighth or ninth in the betting is fair enough.

All I demand from my players is that we reach at least the last eight. This is their minimum responsibility, I think I cannot ask more of them. If we pass the quarter-finals, it is only two more matches - and then anything can happen.

Felipe Scolari is the current coach of Portugal. He was Brazil's coach when they won the 2002 World Cup. Interview by Pedro Redig

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