Scolari talks tough ahead of Turkey test
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was in bullish mood on the eve of his side's opening UEFA EURO 2008 Group A match against Turkey at the Stade de Genève.
The charismatic Brazilian, who steered hosts Portugal to the final in the 2004 edition, said: "We have an extremely talented squad with a midfield which is the envy of almost every team in Europe. To do well at a tournament like this you have to believe you will be there until the bitter end. I know we are good enough to win this tournament, but right now we have to focus on the first match. We lost our first game against Greece four years ago and put a great deal of pressure on ourselves. A victory would be the perfect start to get us in the winning mood."
Scolari is no stranger to facing Turkey in the finals of a major tournament having twice encountered them during his tenure as Brazil coach at the FIFA World Cup in 2002. "I have a lot of respect for the Turkish team," he said. "They play like a South American team fast-flowing football backed by a great coach [Fatih Terim]. Most people expect us to beat them but they forget Turkey lost very narrowly to my Brazil team in a World Cup semi-final. They are strong starters so we must be careful."
Portugal are expected to play a 4-3-3 formation with Petit sitting in front of a defence of Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Paulo Ferreira, allowing João Moutinho and Deco the freedom to push forward from midfield to support their attack. The major talking point in the Portuguese press concerns which of their wing quartet will provide the ammunition for lone striker Nuno Gomes. Scolari has toyed with the idea of using Ricardo Quaresma on the left but the smart money is on Simão to start there with Cristiano Ronaldo weaving his magic down the right.
Turkey coach Terim's biggest headache will be taming the seemingly unstoppable Ronaldo as he squares off against left-back Hakan Balta. "It's not about just one man marking him," said Terim. "You defend as a team and I am not going to criticise one player for failing to stop Ronaldo. He is the best player in the world but we have practised a number of systems which will help contain him."
Terim admitted that there will be no major surprises in his starting lineup. "We have a number of systems up our sleeve but we will not make any radical changes," he said. "We haven't beaten Portugal since 1955 but we have reversed the tide before and why not this time?" With Volkan Demirel's outstanding form for Fenerbahçe SK ensuring his selection ahead of Rüştü Reçber between the posts, and Nihat Kahveci now stepping into shoes of record scorer Hakan Şükür, Turkey are an entirely different proposition to the side Scolari got the better of in 2002. Perhaps this new generation are destined to end that 53-year wait for victory against Portugal.