With a final Group A game versus Switzerland looming, Luiz Felipe Scolari is eager to sign off with Portugal as a European champion before joining Chelsea FC.
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Eliminated Switzerland provide the final first-round opposition for Group A winners Portugal on Sunday but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari allowed himself to look beyond this assignment and admit he dreams of ending his reign as Portugal coach on a high by leading the team to the European title.
Speaking for the first time since the announcement he would be leaving his post at the end of UEFA EURO 2008™ to become Chelsea FC manager, Scolari denied that the timing of the news had had a disruptive effect – "no" was the one-word answer – and stressed he was committed "body and soul" to success with Portugal in Austria and Switzerland. "I am completely involved to the end," he said. "I hope we can get to another final. We have only cleared the first round and have to get over two more hurdles to get to the final. I know my players and I believe in them – it would be great if we could get to the final."
Strength in reserve
With tougher tests ahead, the Brazilian said that he would rest a number of players against the co-hosts – with forward Nuno Gomes "99.9 per cent" certain to be one of them. "If we have quality on the bench we should use it in the match. The result will not affect who we play in the next round. We will do what we did in 2006 [against Mexico] – we had a mixture of players who had played and others who had not played – so they can get into a rhythm and be available to play in future matches."
Portugal won that FIFA World Cup group match 2-1 against Mexico and Scolari's counterpart Köbi Kuhn believes that whoever starts for the opposition, an "attractive match" beckons. "You can never talk about a Portugal B side," said the Switzerland coach, who believes the Portuguese, impressive winners against Turkey and the Czech Republic, can go far – "maybe even to the final". While Scolari can still hope for a triumphant farewell with Portugal, Kuhn's own dream of a prolonged challenge in his final tournament at the helm died with Wednesday's last-gasp loss to Turkey.
Despite the pain of elimination, Kuhn insisted Switzerland were determined to sign off in style in front of another full house at St. Jakob-Park. "We feel the same tension we do for any match. The tournament still has 90 minutes to run for us," he said. Without a point, Switzerland are resigned to the wooden spoon in Group A but they do have one tangible goal to aim for: claiming their first win in the UEFA European Championship, having drawn two and lost six of their eight finals matches down the years.
With Kuhn's seven-year reign as Switzerland coach closing - Ottmar Hitzfeld is waiting in the wings – the 64-year-old admitted that, for once, his selection might be influenced by a touch of sentiment, with a recall "quite possible" for 37-year-old goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler among others. Kuhn, though missing Alexander Frei and Marco Streller, does have Eren Deriyok available, the young forward having recovered from a sprained ankle suffered against Turkey.