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Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 00:02 UK

Scolari under pressure to deliver

By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Luiz Felipe Scolari
Scolari knows he and Chelsea will need to hit the ground running

Luiz Felipe Scolari goes into his first Premier League campaign as Chelsea coach with the heavy burden of expectation on his shoulders.

Scolari, 59, who took over at Chelsea on 1 July, will be expected to deliver in both the Premier League and Champions League.

He shocked the media with his excellent command of English at his first news conference as Blues boss - but the Brazilian has consistently shown a capacity to surprise.

When he made his name with Gremio in the mid 1990s there was a consensus in the Brazilian game that Scolari could only do one thing - send his teams out to play aggressive, rugged football in a 4-4-2 formation with a bombardment of crosses for a target man style of centre forward.

When he won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 he demonstrated that there was much more to him. He played a back three, a system he had always scorned, he worked without a target man and he got the best out of big star names.

606: DEBATE
Magical Zola
Then he crossed the Atlantic to take charge of Portugal and showed that he could succeed in a different culture.

So far he has vaulted every hurdle that has been placed in front of him. He has proved himself to be a highly gifted coach but now he faces the most daunting challenge of his career.

The Chelsea job is fascinating for three reasons.

Firstly, because Scolari has no experience with the kind of multi-national squad that he will be working with. There is nothing in South American football that can possibly prepare a coach for such a task.

There have been previous cases of South American coaches who withdrew from European football in defeat, complaining about the difficulty of forming a group from a squad comprised of 15 different nationalities.

Scolari burns a short fuse. He has lost his patience and clumped people in Brazil and Portugal

Tim Vickery
This is especially fascinating in Scolari's case because he is above all else someone who forms groups. Brazil's 2002 squad were dubbed "the Scolari family" but how will he achieve the same effect with the Chelsea squad?

He found that his motivational methods had to be adapted in Portugal. The tub-thumping religious exhortations left the Portuguese cold. Instead, he had to get through to his players on an individual basis.

Can he do this in a second language with such a cosmopolitan squad? His sports psychologist Regina Brandao rates Scolari as a genius in this respect. He may have to live up to her words if he is to make a success of his new job.

Secondly, there is the question of his relations with the press. A pre-season, easy-to-prepare conference is one thing. The heat of battle is another.

Scolari burns a short fuse. He has lost his patience and clumped people in Brazil and Portugal. He knows all about the pressure of the Brazilian press - the English tabloids are a different kind of monster altogether.

Luiz Felipe Scolari in February 2000
Scolari won trainer of the year while coaching Palmeiras in February 2000
At the first sign of a story they will smell blood. The seagulls, as Eric Cantona put it, might well have another trawler to follow. Thirdly, there is the fact that Scolari has very little experience of working in a league format. When he was a club coach in Brazil the domestic championship used a play-off system, with the top clubs qualifying for the knockout phase.

Scolari made it clear when he was coach of Portugal during Euro 2008 that he has a special feeling for knockout games. He loves building the players up to an emotional peak. Clearly, this will come in handy in the Champions League.

But what about the Premier League? A league competition with games every week, where three points in August are worth the same as three points in May. These are uncharted waters for Scolari.

There is no doubt that he will need considerable input from key figures already at the club - which perhaps he lacked in his previous job.

Scolari's early days with Portugal were clouded by a 3-0 defeat by Spain in a friendly. He had used the occasion to experiment and said afterwards that he had been surprised by the negative reaction.

Astonishingly, he had had no idea that the local rivalry with Spain meant that no match between them could ever truly be described as a friendly.

He got away with this lapse because he was the coach of a national team who were hosting the next international tournament. He had no competitive games until Euro 2004 and so he was aware that there would be a two-year period before his work could really be judged.

With Chelsea it is very different - and his team will be expected to collect three 'routine' points at home to Portsmouth on Sunday.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery?
Email him at vickerycolumn@hotmail.com




see also
Argentine magic
11 Aug 08 |  Football
Scolari sets sights on quadruple
28 Jul 08 |  Chelsea
Scolari's career in photos
11 Jun 08 |  Chelsea
Scolari named as Chelsea manager
11 Jun 08 |  Chelsea
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day
Hull to Old Trafford
11 Aug 08 |  Football
Lawro's Premier League guide
12 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Curbishley cool under pressure
12 Aug 08 |  West Ham


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