For England Versus Portugal, Read Eriksson Versus Scolari | Match Reports | DW | 01.07.2006
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Match Reports

For England Versus Portugal, Read Eriksson Versus Scolari

Saturday's quarter-final between England and Portugal is a re-run of the last eight match at Euro 2004. It is also the third time coaches Eriksson and Scolari have met at this stage in successive major tournaments.

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Coaches Scolari and Eriksson renew their rivalry with yet another quarter-final clash

Rumor has it that England's progression to the quarter-finals of the World Cup has something to do with Sven Goran Eriksson's meeting with a guy with cloven hooves at a deserted crossroads at midnight.

England's Swedish coach may not have sold his soul to the Devil in return for his team winning the World Cup but something otherworldly is certainly afoot. England have undoubtedly been the most boring of the teams to reach the quarter-finals; their performances only mildly more yawn-inducing than their assertion that they are getting better.

And yet they remain unbeaten and once again will be one of the last eight teams at the World Cup. And as if to prove the constant, and as yet hollow, reassurances that they will play better as they progress, things are slowly starting to go right for England.

Things start to slowly go England's way

Wayne Rooney Stürmerstar von England WM 2006 25.06.2006 England - Ecuador Fussball Stuttgart

Wayne Rooney looks to be back to full fitness

Wayne Rooney proved on Sunday that he is fit enough to play a whole match in searing heat, even managing to raise his game in the last 20 minutes despite spending the previous 70 chasing hopeful balls in his thankless lone striker role. He even gave a reminder that, when supported by a second attacker and given the ball to play with and not just chase, he can be a danger.

Another recovering injury victim, Ashley Cole, is starting to look like a world class left back again. Anonymous and off the pace in the group stages, Cole was released by the 4-1-4-1 formation England played and once more showed the importance of having an overlapping wing back. And on the other flank, first choice right-back Gary Neville is returning to full training after a calf injury which has kept him out of the last three games.

Michael Carrick's introduction into competitive international soccer was a mostly smooth one with the holding midfielder spraying assured passes around from a deep lying position. While his range was slightly askew, if Eriksson perseveres with the formation he adopted for the 1-0 last 16 win over Ecuador, Carrick will get the chance to get the measure of his passes right.

But there are still more questions than answers with England. The most pressing being: does the coach know what he's doing? England are in the last eight and Eriksson still doesn't know what his ideal formation is and seems determined to accommodate his stars rather than play a balanced, attack-minded team.

Round three of tactical battle with old foe Scolari

Tactics may again prove to be the Swede's downfall against quarter-final opponents Portugal. The draw has once more pitted Eriksson's team against one masterminded by Luiz Felipe Scolari. The two coaches have come up against each other at this stage of the last two major competitions, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, and the Brazilian has come out on top both times.

In Yokohama, Eriksson's team took the lead against Scolari's Brazil only to be pegged back at half-time. England's second-half collapse of confidence handed the eventual world champions the 2-1 victory after Ronaldinho had scored a spectacular free-kick and got himself sent off.

Rückklick Beckham Euro 2004

Beckham set the tone by missing the first penalty in Lisbon

Two years later in Lisbon and another second-half debacle handed the Portuguese the advantage and after a 2-2 stalemate, England succumbed to their own particular brand of hara-kiri, going out again on penalties.

Each time, Scolari had the nous to adjust his game plan; rearranging ten-man Brazil to keep England at bay and then making inspired substitutions with Portugal to claw the game back. Eriksson, however, did pretty much the same thing in both instances: sitting like a rabbit caught in headlights while his players looked to him in vain for inspiration.

Depleted Portugal team a boost to England

This time around, the gods -- or whoever Eriksson may have struck a deal with -- are being benevolent. Portugal's wrestling bout with the Netherlands means that their influential midfielder Deco and defender Costinha are suspended and Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt after having Khalid Boulahrouz's studs embedded in his thigh.

WM 2006 - Portugal - Iran

Luis Figo will be back to haunt England on Saturday

Luis Figo will play despite being shown on television head-butting Marc van Bommel when the referee was dealing with one of the many outbreaks of indiscipline during the last 16 match with the Dutch.

But while the absence of influential players would scupper the plans of many coaches, Scolari has already made sure that most of his squad have had pitch time at this World Cup and none of those who will be called into action against England will be coming in cold. Simao and Tiago are more than capable of filling in Deco and Costinha while Scolari has a number of creative options if Ronaldo doesn't recover in time.

Considering what's at stake; the recent history between the two teams, the rivalry between the two coaches and the fact that Scolari turned down the opportunity to succeed Eriksson, this match has the potential to be a classic.

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