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England's failures vs Scolari's 11th win

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 21:12 IST
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With England a victory from its first World Cup semifinal in 16 years, some want Sven-Goran Eriksson to inspire players with a fiery speech, as if he were a grand orator or a character from a Shakespeare play.

"I will be as I've always been," the soft-spoken Swede said on Friday. "I will not read Winston Churchill tonight and try to be him."

Heading into World Cup quarterfinal against Portugal, England's first foreign coach remains more Cool Britannia than a candidate for Speakers Corner in London's Hyde Park. He doesn't quite fit in - which matches his team. When it comes to big tournaments, England seems to be driving on the left side of the street in strange lands where everyone else keeps right.

Compounding that, only once in their last 10 meetings have the English beaten the Portuguese. And Eriksson is 0-2 against his counterpart Luiz Felipe Scolari - who is on a record 11-match World Cup winning streak.

The English, who won their only World Cup in 1966, got knocked out on penalty kicks against Germany (1990 semifinals) and Argentina (1998 second round). In 2002, they couldn't hold a lead against Brazil and lost in the quarterfinals.

In the European Championship, they lost to Germany on penalty kicks in the 1996 semis, then four years later didn't make it out of the first round as they lost to Portugal after squandering a two-goal lead.

Two years ago, Portugal beat them on penalty kicks in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals after an apparent 89th-minute, go-ahead goal by Sol Campbell was disallowed because of a foul. Star forward Wayne Rooney left the match with a broken foot, and England captain David Beckham sent his penalty kick high over the crossbar.

Beckham does not want a result decided on penalties this time. "It's not unthinkable because it could happen again," he said. "We don't want it to happen again and we're determined to do better in this quarterfinal than we have done in the others. "They've got the better of us in quarterfinals before, but it's up to us to change that."

Coming from a country that seems to be perpetually rainy, England seems to wilt in the summer heat of the biggest competitions. Beckham and Gary Neville, both over 30, know this might be their last chance to win a title for their country.

"A time for us to show that determination, that English spirit," Neville said. "We're at our best, I think, when we show that spirit."

Neville, fit following a calf muscle injury that sidelined him for three games, will return at right back. Beckham says he's healthy after scoring in the 1-0 second-round win over Ecuador and then vomiting on the field because of dehydration.

Portugal, which lost to England in the 1966 semifinals, will be missing playmaker Deco and defender Costinha, suspended following ejections in the brutal second-round victory over the Netherlands. Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who injured a thigh against the Dutch, didn't train on Friday.

"He might play, he might not. I don't know," Scolari said. "We'll see tomorrow. It's unclear at the moment." Scolari does not expect the high-stakes game to degenerate like Portugal's scrappy defeat of the Dutch.

"We still have to prove ourselves," he said. "There's no specter hanging over this game. It'll be a tight, thrilling match. If we look at England's fighting spirit and Portugal's fighting spirit, it's going to be an exciting game."

Four of Scolari's record 11 straight wins are with Portugal in this campaign. The others were in 2002, when he led his native Brazil to the title. His teams knocked out England of the 2002 World Cup and 2004 Euros, and he turned down an approach to succeed Eriksson, who announced in January he was stepping down as England's coach after the World Cup.

Portugal, led by midfielder Luis Figo and forward Pauleta, is unbeaten in 18 straight games, a team record, and England is undefeated in 10.

"We know how they play, their players. I just hope they don't spring a surprise on us," Figo said.

Saturday's winner faces Brazil or France on Wednesday in Munich. About 70,000 English fans and 20,000 Portuguese supporters were expected in Gelsenkirchen, ready to watch at the stadium or on giant outdoor screens.

Since, FIFA decided the roof will be closed so there would not be shadows across the field that would diminish the television broadcast. "It's a little bit cooler," a pleased Eriksson said after training.

"It's good to avoid the sun tomorrow."

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