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No favourites, says Scolari

Published: Tuesday 29 June 2004, 17.25CET
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has predicted a "tight match" tomorrow night against what he considers the best Netherlands side since 1988.
by Jorge Vicente
from Alcochete
Published: Tuesday 29 June 2004, 17.25CET

No favourites, says Scolari

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has predicted a "tight match" tomorrow night against what he considers the best Netherlands side since 1988.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari began his press conference with a warning. Attempting to downplay what he considers "an excess of euphoria" in Portugal as the national team approach their semi-final against the Netherlands, the Brazilian stressed that his players would be meeting a side with just as much chance of reaching the final as themselves.

Identical records
"I'm seeing an excess of euphoria that could be damaging to our team," Scolari said. "We will be playing against a strong side, and we aren't favourites to win the game because they also have great quality." The statistics support Scolari's words. He explained that the two teams had identical records for ball possession (58 per cent) and pass completion (78 per cent) in the tournament so far, evidence "that it will be a tight match".

Best since 1988
Besides praising their tactical flexibility, Scolari described this Dutch side as the best since 1988, when Ruud Gullit and company were crowned European champions. "I think this is the best Netherlands team since they won the [UEFA] European Championship in 1988.

Marking roles
"Now they are in the semi-finals and they have shown the quality of their football. They have an attractive football system, which fits the personality and quality of their players, but we will do everything we can to win." To counter the Dutch threat, Scolari is considering assigning marking roles to two of his midfield players - presumably Costinha and Maniche - who would be asked "to stop the creative Dutch central midfield players".

Forward question
What remains to be seen is whether Nuno Gomes will continue up front, given that he has been struggling with an ankle problem and Pauleta is available again after suspension. Asked about his intentions, Scolari replied: "Nuno Gomes? I'm not sure, because I have to speak with the doctor before deciding who will play up front. But I will say again that all 23 players have an opportunity to play, according to our strategy for the match."

Call to fans
Besides worrying about his on-field strategy, Scolari was also keen that Portugal win the battle off the pitch. Anticipating an invasion of orange-clad Dutch fans in the Estádio José Alvalade, he asked that "every Portuguese fan goes to the stadium dressed in the colours of the Portuguese flag" and added: "We need to all be together against the tide of orange we can expect."

Last updated: 29/06/04 18.00CET

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