ALCOCHETE, Portugal, June 13 (Reuters)
- When Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari spends most of the
second half sitting quietly on the team bench, something is
The Brazilian World Cup winner,
known in his homeland as "Big Phil", usually puts on his own
private show as he rants and gesticulates incessantly on the
But on Saturday, Scolari
remained glumly in his seat for most of the time, occasionally
opening his arms in utter exasperation as the Euro 2004 hosts
lost 2-1 to outsiders Greece in the tournament's opening match.
It was easy to understand his
On a man-to-man basis, Portugal
appear to have one of the most talented squads in the
A lineup that includes Real
Madrid forward Luis Figo, the core of the Porto side which one
the Champions League and Italian-based defender Fernando Couto,
who boasts more than a century of international caps, should be
a match for anyone.
As a team, however, they
repeatedly fail to live up to their billing.
Portugal went out of the 1996
European Championship at the quarter-final stage after being
tipped as outsiders to win the title and dubbed the "Brazil of
They failed to qualify for the
1998 World Cup and fell at the first hurdle in 2002 after
embarrassing defeats by the United States and co-hosts South
The only time they came close to
fulfilling their potential was at the last European
Championship, when they reached the semi-finals.
In a recent interview with a
Brazilian newspaper, Scolari complained that European players
"If you look at the European
player during the team-talk, you don't see that glint in their
eyes," he told the Jornal do Brasil.
His behaviour on Saturday
appeared to reflect that sentiment.
It cannot be easy for a man
accustomed to the cut-throat competition of South American club
football to accept such a lethargic, uninspired display from his
Figo, shoulders hunched and
bearing the expression of a man who feels the world is against
him, was a shadow of his Real Madrid self and winger Cristiano
Ronaldo's fancy footwork almost invariably ended with an overhit
Benfica strikers Nuno Gomes and
Simao Sabrosa blamed the performance on nothing more than a bout
of stage fright, promising everything will be fine against
Russia on Wednesday.
Attempts to find a more
deep-rooted explanation were repelled by the repeated use of the
words nerves, anxiety and tension.
Although Portugal's players
often gestured angrily to each other during the game, Nuno Gomes
would not entertain a suggestion from one reporter about a
possible lack of unity and threw the question straight back.
"You think we're not united on
the field?" he asked. "It's always normal to have anxiety and
nervousness," added Simao. "When the ball starts to move, this
goes away. We continue to be a united group and we will prove
"It's not because of one result
that all the work we have done in the previous two weeks will go
down the drain."
Nuno Gomes, however, admitted
that Portugal were once again in the familiar position of having
to keep an eye on other results.
"Unfortunately, we are getting
good at doing sums," he said.