The prospect of entering a World Cup quarter-final with a team ravaged by injury and suspension held no fear for Luiz Felipe Scolari last night as he vowed to end Sven Goran Eriksson's England career in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday.
Eriksson's nemesis in international football, and the man who could have become his successor as England manager after this tournament, will attempt to record a third consecutive quarter-final victory win over the Swede when their paths cross at the home of Schalke 04.
The Portugal manager must do so without the influential midfielders Deco and Costinha, both of whom were dismissed in the tempestuous second-round the game against the Netherlands on Sunday, and Cristiano Ronaldo if the Manchester United winger fails to recover from the muscle injury that left him in tears at the Frankenstadion. Yet despite the potential loss of three invaluable midfielders Scolari, who led Portugal to a penalty shoot-out triumph over England in the last eight of Euro 2004 and Brazil to a quarter-final win over Eriksson's side en route to World Cup success in Japan two years earlier, believes spirit and strength in depth will enable him to puncture the Swede's reign once again.
"We only need one more victory to equal the fantastic result of that great Portugal team of 1966 [who reached the country's only previous semi-final] and we have to fight to do that," the Brazilian said. "I cannot speak on behalf of Eriksson and I do not know what formation he will choose. I know he will want to win the game and like a competent coach he will choose the team he thinks is best for England.
"We will have to change one or two things considering that we cannot use two players, but we have a lot on the bench so I am not concerned in that sense. We have 21 players now with a will and determination that I have never seen in a Portugal team, and that will be enough to overcome the quality that England have."
The Portuguese Football Federation, with whom Scolari signed a lucrative contract extension after rejecting the offer to replace Eriksson as England manager, yesterday launched an appeal against Deco's dismissal for a second yellow card in Nuremberg with Fifa, but with little prospect of success.
"We admit we made some disciplinary mistakes against Holland but we do not accept Deco's red card," Scolari said. "Deco was sent off for a second yellow card when, for the first, Holland players didn't put the ball out of play when it was ours. And they were told by their coach [Marco van Basten] to do it. Fifa asked us to sign a Fair Play statement so it is impossible to accept their [the Netherlands'] attitude."
Scolari has given Ronaldo an 80 per cent chance of returning to training by Friday - "it is a serious situation" he said - and does have the resources to cover for the plethora of Portuguese absentees. Luis Figo, who will escape retrospective punishment for head-butting Mark van Bommel as he was booked for the incident, is expected to revert to Deco's playmaking role, while the former Chelsea midfielder Tiago and Benfica's Armando Petit are in contention to replace the defensive Costinha.
Gary Neville is on course to play on Saturday, with the England assistant coach, Steve McClaren, saying that the defender had managed light training on Monday. Neville has missed the past three games with a calf injury.
"He should train tomorrow and definitely Wednesday," McClaren said. "He needs a few days' training and hopefully he'll be in contention for Saturday."
The England management were on the defensive yesterday following their latest disappointing display of the World Cup, with McClaren denying suggestions that senior players had been unhappy with the limited amount of time given to prepare for Eriksson's latest tactical experiment on Sunday. The England manager drafted Michael Carrick into the holding role against Ecuador at the expense of Owen Hargreaves, who replaced Jamie Carragher at right-back, and announced his plans to the squad on Wednesday night.
Amid claims the squad had insufficient time to adjust to the new system McClaren said: "I was stunned to get them reports. They are untrue. Preparation, attention to detail is one of the key things in a tournament. In a World Cup, one of the things we stress is, with seven games in 28 days, detail, preparation, rest and recovery are all key because you are always planning for the unexpected - for injuries, suspensions and we've had quite a few of those incidents to deal with.
"We knew the team on Wednesday evening. Sven gave us that and we never tried any other formation - 4-5-1 was what we went with and we worked on that hard. There were certain aspects from the Sweden game we needed to work on - set-pieces, certain defending, we did that. We wanted to nullify Ecuador and win, and we achieved all three."Reuse content