Portugal v Germany: Big occasion brings out the swagger in Scolari
It was a stunt worthy of Jose Mourinho and on the eve of a big match it showed that Luiz Felipe Scolari was a man for the big gesture. Mid-speech yesterday he produced the Germany team list from his jacket pocket and started reading out the height in metres of some of the giants who wear the white shirt. "Ballack, 1.88m, Klose 1.82m, Metzelder, 1.94m. My players are good but they're small," he said. "I need to find an answer to this problem!"
The question had been about how Scolari will deal with Michael Ballack, the Germany captain who, in a month's time, will be one of his cast of superstars at Chelsea but tonight faces Portugal in the first Euro 2008 quarter-final. Potentially this could be the Brazilian's last game in charge of Portugal but if he was worried it did not show.
He even called for Uefa to rescind its touchline ban on the Germany coach, Joachim Löw, and allow him to sit on the bench in a gesture that was intended to show his confidence. Scolari might be facing Germany in a stadium a few miles from the German border but he made a point of saying that he wished Löw was in the dugout. "It's not a question of confidence, it's a question of friendship," Scolari said. "I've lived through similar situations when a coach who could have helped me was a bad person. I don't want to be that kind of person and I would like Joachim to be on the bench. It's not going to change things on the pitch. I have experienced that bad character from another coach and don't want to be the same."
That bad person is presumably Javier Clemente, the Spaniard in charge of Serbia who called for an investigation into Scolari's touchline dust-up during the match against his team in September. Scolari does tend to bear grudges. "The fact that I have a new life situation does not cause any anxiety," Scolari said. "I will be without the Portugal team in future but that isn't causing me anxiety. I tell the players what I've always said, 'Do your best.' If we don't beat Germany it's because of a difference in quality. They don't owe me anything and they don't owe Portugal anything if they do their best."
There were a few jokes too, Scolari pulled off the earphones that were providing the translation and announced, in Portuguese, that "I understand English a lot better already." He announced that his line-up would be unchanged – another Mourinho trick – and when confronted with a new poll in Brazil showing his popularity he suggested he should have run for president.
As well as fears over the fitness of Torsten Frings and Lukas Podolski, the Germany team have been playing down the match-winning potential of Cristiano Ronaldo. Jens Lehmann said: "At Arsenal we had a recipe for dealing with him and I have told Arne Friedrich [the right-back] what that recipe is." Scolari was not willing to enter into the traditional tit-for-tat.
"I hope these words will motivate us, but it's normal to have this, it happens every time before these great matches," he said. "One say Portugal is the favourite, we say they're the favourite. We say they have this great player, they say we have one. It's a shove and push game and happens in every tournament. The players know this."
What is really worrying the Germans is that Scolari would appear to have their number in major games, just as he evidently knows how to beat England. In the World Cup final of 2002 it was another Ronaldo under his command who did for the Germans' hopes. "I hope we can defeat Germany whether it's through goals by Ronaldo or anybody else," he said.
"When you reach this stage you have to convey your trust to the players. Sometimes in your private moments you have doubts. That's human. It's then you have to convey a sense of confidence and trust."
Germany (probable, 4-4-2): Lehmann (Stuttgart); Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Metzelder (Real Madrid), Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Lahm (Bayern Munich); Fritz (Werder Bremen), Frings (Werder Bremen), Ballack (Chelsea), Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich); Klose (Bayern Munich), Podolski (Bayern Munich).
Portugal (probable, 4-3-2-1): Ricardo (Real Betis); Bosingwa (Chelsea), Pepe (Real Madrid), Carvalho (Chelsea), Ferreira (Chelsea); Petit (Benfica), Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Deco (Barcelona), Simao (Atletico Madrid); Gomes (Benfica).
Referee: P Frojdfeldt (Sweden).
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