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Luck or judgment?

Managerial choices at Euro 2004 raise eyebrows

Posted: Monday July 5, 2004 11:29PM; Updated: Monday July 5, 2004 11:37PM
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By Brian Glanville, World Soccer magazine

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WHEN in the England-Portugal quarterfinal Big Phil Scolari took off the illustrious Luis Figo and replaced him with Helder Postiga, I found it had to believe.

True, Figo had somewhat flattered to deceive for all his ubiquitous presence, but to take him off at all seemed surprising; to substitute him with a 21-year-old striker who, however expensive, had lamentably failed last season at Tottenham, seldom if ever called from the bench in the latter stages, seemed an act of aberration, a monumental gamble. Well, if that is what it was, then it handsomely paid off.

For it was Postiga who rose to send that majestic header whizzing past David James for the Portuguese equalizer, and Postiga who coolly put away his penalty, when the moment came.

Scolari, considerably criticized before the tournament, began it badly. The team he put out in Portugal's opening game against Greece had Fernando Couto at center half rather than the obvious choice, Porto's resourceful and dominating Ricardo Carvalho.

Couto in my book has been a suspect defender for years, and so he was on this occasion. The cardinal error on the first Greek goal was certainly by Porto right back Paulo Ferreira, who so sloppily gave the ball away. But it was Couto who culpably stood off enabling Giorgios Karagounis to get in his shot.

It also seemed absurd not to bring on Deco, the highly incisive Brazilian-Portuguese, and the elusive Cristiano Ronaldo, till half time. True Ronaldo promptly gave away that penalty, but his activity on the left gave Portugal new options and he headed a fine goal.

BUT managerial choices were just as curious elsewhere. Not least in the case of Holland, whose coach Dick Advocaat, to Dutch disgust, didn't use his clever left winger Arjen Robben in the first game against the Germans. When brought on in the next game against the Czechs he was responsible for setting up both Dutch goals, one from either wing.

France's Jacques Santini inexplicably put Marcel Desailly, another fading figure, into the second game against Croatia and paid for his folly when Desailly, by his own admission, was complicit in the goal scored by Dado Pros. But it did seem very unfair to me that in the subsequent press conference the French journalists should direct their fire at Desailly himself. It was, after all, Santini who picked him, though all the evidence of his shaky performances for club and country had shown him as a potential liability.

Age alas has withered. It did seem strange that Santini should have brought him to Portugal while leaving the accomplished young Auxerre center back Mexes behind, though picking his club partner, Jean Alain-Boumsong.

IT was somewhat ironic to have Lazio's right flanker Stefano Fiore, just before Italy played their first game, condemning the choice, ahead of him, of a South American in Mauro Camoranesi.

As long ago as the 1934 final Italy's right winger was another Argentine in Enrico Guaita.

"If they can die for Italy then can play for Italy!" thundered Italy's commanding chief Vittorio Pozzo.

But when the Abyssinian war began Guaita and other South Americans, so-called oriundi, were caught trying to sneak across the Swiss border! Play yes; die, no!

THOSE silver footballs flew about the pitches like projectiles. Am I wrong in believing that they were so light that players could effortlessly kick them for huge distances? It seemed scarcely to take any back lift to propel those balls fifty or 60 yards across the field or if you were a goalkeeper, deep into the opposing half.

Manufacturers are continually working on new football designs and the latest made me think back and marvel at the days when heavy footballs gathered mud and tested the heads and muscles of those who had to use them. I'd be most interested to read some relevant statistics about the weight of these silver balls and whether indeed they can be dispatched as easily as it seemed. I don't think that it was just my imagination.

POOR Porto. Scarcely have they won the European Cup than their team has been rent asunder. Manager Mourinho to Chelsea. Right back Ferreira probably following him there. Center back Carvalho bound to move to one of several suitors. Deco on the move as well. Russia's impressive Dmitri Alenichev determined to go though he won't give any reasons.

He shone in the tournament though he, like his pal Alexander Mostovoi, clashed with their manager Georgi Yartsev. Mostovoi was packed off home, Alenichev luckily for Russia stayed but was moved out of the team's hotel to be kept closer to his coach.

Brian Glanville is Britain's most celebrated football writer. He also writes a monthly column in World Soccer magazine. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.

His latest book, a fully updated edition of THE STORY OF THE WORLD CUP is available in all good bookshops. Readers of worldsoccer.com can buy this highly acclaimed history of the World Cup and enjoy a 10% discount by clicking here.

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