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A bitter phil to swallow

The F.A. were mad to even consider Phil Scolari for the England job.

Tony Cascarino, 05 May 2006

That a relief that Brazilian bruiser ‘Big Phil’ Scolari has turned down the England managers’s job. It amazed me he was even in the running for the position in the first place. How could the English FA expect a guy to come into an England dressing room and not speak any of the lingo?

Communication in the dressing-room is all-important, and players might take advantage of the fact that he can’t understand the banter and the jokes. OK, he doesn’t seem to be the kind of character you take liberties with, and he’s got a great CV, but I find it astonishing that England would even consider someone who'd have to rely on a translator.

I played in a foreign dressing-room for six years, and I remember how hard it was, you feel that you can never get your points across. Christ knows how difficult it is for a manager. Dramatic things happen in every match, and you need to be able to react on the spot. All the successful foreign managers in England – Mourinho, Benitez, Wenger – have all spoken the language very well. The ones who couldn’t – Christian Gross, Joe Venglos, Alain Perrin – have all been disasters.

With Scolari out of the frame, I think Sam Allardyce should get the opportunity.

We shouldn’t rule Steve McClaren out either. I must admit, I’ve been very impressed with Middlesbrough the last few games. He’s changed the team around so dramatically that it’s got them back into games, and he’s shown he’s got the balls to make the brave decisions. I’m aware Gareth Southgate suggested in an interview that it was the senior players who’d turned it around, but you’ve still got to give credit to the manager. They take the stick when it goes wrong – they deserve the credit when they win. He’s shifted to a very aggressive mentality when they’ve been behind, thrown the kitchen sink at Basle and Bucharest and come up smiling. Whether they’ll beat Seville, I’m not sure – they’re a very, very hard team to break down. It’ll be a tight affair. But Boro can do it, they’ve got goals in their team.

As far as the Champions’ League, I’ve tipped Barcelona since September and I’m not about to change my mind. They’ve seemed all season to be the best team in Europe. They have something very different to everyone else – a style of play based on flair in all positions. They can take it to teams or counter-attack depending on what’s required - they can do anything. With a forward line of Eto’o, Messi, Ronaldinho, Larsson, Giuly, Deco, the goalscoring possibilities are mouth-watering. With even a half-decent back four, you’d back them to win any match.

Arsenal were unusually cautious against Villareal. The result was everything they wanted, but they’ll need a bigger performance than that to beat Barca. To win, they’ve got to try and outscore them, and be fearless. They can’t afford to be too clever. Even with their defence - which is starting to look fantastic - I can’t see them keeping Barcelona out over ninety minutes, so they’ll need goals. Arsenal rode their luck in the semi-final, but in order to win the thing, they’ll need to be their usual attacking selves.

Keeping it tight won’t work. Barcelona have too many weapons.

Jens Lehmann made himself a hero with that penalty save, and with the World Cup coming up, I have to say Germany can’t be counted out. History has taught us that the host nation always has a great chance. It doesn’t seem the strongest German side ever, but that’s always when you need to be wary of them. They didn’t have a great team in 2002, and they still made the Final. With being at home, it’ll take a brave man to bet against them. The Germans and the English, for me, are the strongest of the European contenders. I don’t see any of the other European nations as a huge threat.

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