Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 22 News List

‘Big Phil’ hoping to add Euro 2008 crown to CV

AFP , LISBON

Portugal’s Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari directs players during a training session at the Fontelo Stadium in Viseu, central Portugal, on May 20.

PHOTO: AFP

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is one of those people who is genuinely a larger than life character and has the trophies to go with his coaching talent, but he would dearly love to add the European crown to his achievements.

The 59-year-old Brazilian came agonizingly close four years ago as the hosts Portugal succumbed 1-0 to Greece in the final, having already lost 2-1 to them in the opening match of the tournament.

However, whilst “Big Phil” or “master sergeant” as he is known for his disciplinarian manner, has since lost several hugely experienced players through retirement — Luis Figo and Pedro Pauleta giving up the ghost following their exit in the 2006 World Cup semi-finals — he is confident they can give as good a showing this time round.

“We have as good a chance as we did in 2004,” said Scolari, who guided Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title.

“This time round, the team is younger and less experienced, but, with good morale we can reach the final,” added Scolari, who bears a striking resemblance to Hollywood actor Gene Hackman.

Scolari brooks no argument either with his own players or those of the opposition as he showed when he surprised many by leaving the experienced Inter Milan midfielder Maniche out of the final squad.

However, he drew serious criticism and a punishment from European governing body UEFA for his handling of another incident when he slapped Serbian player Ivica Dragutinovic following a Euro 2008 qualifier.

That has not deterred the normally placid Portuguese supporters from adoring him and indeed he has managed to get them rather fired up, beginning back at Euro 2004 when he implored them to hang the Portuguese national flag from their windows and thousands answered his call to arms.

Scolari has also defied the belief that a modest playing career does not make a good coach as he has shown with his inspirational qualities of motivating players and getting the most out of them.

His list of achievements aside from the World Cup backs this up with the Gulf Cup with Kuwait in 1990 and two Libertadores Cups with Gremio and Palmeiras in 1995 and 1999 respectively.

Whether he stays on with the Portuguese after the championships remains open to debate.

Just before the 2006 World Cup it was revealed that he had been offered the England post in succession to Sven-Goran Eriksson only to snub the English Football Association in embarrassing fashion.

He has been linked once again with succeeding Eriksson, this time at Premiership side Manchester City — if as seems inevitable the Swede is sacked.

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