Sven v. Scolari

When Portugal and England kick off tonight (Thursday) at 7:45pm, a battle of tactics between Sven-Goran Eriksson and World Cup-winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will recommence. Knocking host nation Portugal out of the competition while exorcising that painful World Cup defeat by Scolari’s Brazil two years ago could be the defining moment of this enthralling tournament for Eriksson and his England team. To do this Eriksson must study again the mistakes England made when they lost 2-1 to the 10 man Brazilian team in the 2002 World Cup.

Scolari was the tactical brains behind that victory. But the prospect of renewing his rivalry with Big Phil appears to neither worry nor excite Eriksson. “I haven’t given it much thought,” he said. “I like Scolari very much. He’s a nice human being and a very good coach.”

Eriksson is familiar with Portuguese football having won the national title three times with Benfica. “I’ve always said that Portugal’s football compares with Brazil in terms of technique,” he insisted. “They have fantastic players with the ball… Figo, Deco, Ronaldo, Maniche, Rui Costa. I think they are the most technically accomplished team in the tournament. They use perhaps just one player at the front supported by two wingers but they try to retain possession of the ball. It will be difficult but it should be difficult in the quarter-finals, I guess.”

The consensus among Portuguese football experts was that the national squad will have to play with the same level of imagination that they displayed in the game against Spain, if they are to beat England.