Switzerland 2 Portugal 0: Scolari humbled as Switzerland go out with bang
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 16 June 2008
Five days as Chelsea manager and already the man is losing games: at this rate Luiz Felipe Scolari will be out of the job by September. OK, so it was only a dead rubber but Scolari followed this defeat to the hapless Swiss with a bizarre rant in which he covertly criticised the referee by sarcastically blaming himself.
Sounds complicated? It certainly needed explaining from those who know Scolari best. Having rested eight of his starting XI, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Scolari claimed that he had made a mistake in not resting the entire team given that they had already won Group A. He went on to bemoan his own judgment at great length. "I made a big mistake," he said. "I should have replaced the 11 players who have played up until now. As the match progressed, I could have kept my 'replacement' 11 and kept everyone safe." On he went, complaining that he "ran too many risks" even by keeping just three of his first XI on the pitch. Yet the sarcasm with which he pronounced referee Konrad Plautz's performance as "excellent" suggested that it was not really himself he blamed. Both goals were scored by Hakan Yakin, the second from a debatable penalty decision that Scolari found so absurd he laughed when it was made.
"I made a mistake," he said. "But I reasoned like a coach that thinks the squad will play normally, that there'd be no problems. But I should have changed 11 players, not five or six. I made a mistake. I regret all the yellow cards because only at the semi-finals do they go back to zero. I told my players not to complain, not to make any mistakes because they could have got another caution."
We might have to get used to this double talk, the Chelsea manager-in-waiting seems to prefer the subliminal message to spelling it out. Later Scolari said, "We didn't know we were coming to party" which suggested he was not impressed with the performance of the referee on a night when the Swiss hosts clawed back some of their pride. As the Brazilian plunged his hands into his pockets and stared balefully across the pitch you wondered whether he regretted the decision on Wednesday to announce his departure. Asked whether that had been a factor, Scolari responded grumpily. "That's your opinion, I can't answer your question."
It will become a more pertinent factor if Portugal falter against Germany or Austria in the quarter-final on Thursday. For now this result was just a touch embarrassing. For their farewell to veteran coach, Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn, the Swiss put on a show with Yakin and, improbably, Philippe Senderos the outstanding players.
Among the eight missing there was also no Ricardo Carvalho, Deco or Simao Sabrosa although there was a fairly disastrous performance from Paulo Ferreira. He presented Switzerland with their best chance of the first half with a wayward pass and committed a dreadful foul on Valon Behrami for which he was rightly booked. Four minutes from half-time the Chelsea full-back, sporting a black eye, was substituted for his own good, presumably to protect him from a second yellow. Strong management from Scolari, but it did make you wonder whether the £13m full-back is approaching the end of his Chelsea career.
With the likes of Nani and Ricardo Quaresma, Portugal should have won this game easily. The Manchester United man was denied a blatant penalty when the Swiss right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner tripped him.
Pepe had a shot pushed onto the bar by goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuhler and Quaresma executed a piece of skill that beat anything Ronaldo had conjured in the last two games. It was a cross struck by his right foot which he swung behind his left leg. Helder Postiga headed wide. Nani hit the post in the second half and finally Switzerland roused themselves. Gokhan Inler struck the outside of Ricardo's post with a shot and then they broke through.
On 70 minutes, Patrick Muller played a low ball into the feet of Eren Derdiyok who flicked the ball into Yakin in the area. His shot went through the legs of Ricardo. Switzerland were fortunate with the award of the penalty for their second – there was contact between Fernando Meira and substitute Tranquillo Barnetta but the latter went to ground far too easily. Yakin scored the penalty and was substituted to a standing ovation. Scolari did not look like a man who tolerates any kind of defeat easily.
Switzerland (4-4-1-1): Zuberbühler (Xamax Neuchatel); Lichtsteiner (Lille), Muller (Lyons), Senderos (Arsenal), Magnin (Stuttgart); Behrami (Lazio), Fernandes (Manchester City), Inler (Udinese), Vonlanthen (Salzburg); H Yakin (Young Boys Berne); Derdiyok (Basle). Substitutes used: Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen) for Vonlanthen, 61; Grichting (Auxerre) for Lichtsteiner, 85; Cabanas (Grasshoppers) for Yakin, 85.
Portugal (4-3-2-1): Ricardo (Real Betis); Miguel (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), B Alves (Porto), Ferreira (Chelsea); Meira (Stuttgart), Veloso (Sporting Lisbon), Meireles (Porto); Quaresma (Porto), Nani (Manchester United); Postiga (Panathinaikos). Substitutes used: Ribeiro (Benfica) for Ferreira, 41; Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon) for Veloso, 70; Almeida (Werder Bremen) for Postiga, 74.
Referee: K Plautz (Austria)
Booked: Switzerland Yakin, Vonlanthen, Barnetta, Gelson; Portugal Ferreira, Jorge Ribeiro, Fernando Meira, Miguel.
Man of the match: Senderos.
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