Scolari smooth as silk but he has a bite, too

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

BASEL, SWITZERLAND -- Luiz Felipe Scolari is your grandfather with an edge, a pretty sharp edge.

He looks like your grandfather, easy-going, conversational, kind and gentle. You want to give the Portuguese team coach a hug.

But when be feels there's a laggard among his players, or his team doesn't do what he wants or someone is trying to do his team over, Scolari becomes as protective as a wolverine around her cubs.

Fiery, passionate and smooth, oh so smooth.

Scolari has had 19 jobs in the last 25 years. He won a World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and almost won Euro 2004 with Portugal.

Give me Scolari to coach any team, let alone a soccer team.

Scolari will leave the Portugal after Euro 2008 to coach Chelsea of the English Premier League. He'll earn about $13 million a year.

Is he worth it?

If anyone is, it's Scolari.

Not only does he know how to coach, he knows how to handle players. He knows how to handle everyone.

At the press conference yesterday prior to today's Portugal-Germany quarter-final, Scolari was silk. He was asked about provocative statements supposedly made by Germany, which included slagging Portuguese goalie Ricardo.

"Those kind of statements are normal," he said. "Everyone makes statements like that. You have to know how to manage that."

Someone tried to sneak in a question about Cristiano Ronaldo, hoping Scolari would give away anything about were the world's top player would play next year.

"Ronaldo plays for the national team of Portugal, my national team," Scolari says. "He plays with such a great will, you can't imagine. That's what I like about Ronaldo."

There was constant questioning about whether he had any special plans for German midfielder Michael Ballack.

Scolari made a motion to wait a minute and reached into his pocket, bringing out a folded sheet with the German lineup. He read out the heights of the German players.

"I had to find a way to deal with this. We are much shorter," Scolari said. "Ballack is a great player but I have to deal with all of the German team."

Finally he was asked about Joachim Low and UEFA's one game suspension of the German coach.

"I would applaud UEFA if the would review the suspension," Scolari said. "I would like to see Joachim on the bench."

The only thing Scolari really gave away was that he planned no real changes in he lineup that won the first two games in group play.

And so it went. Scolari never saying a lot but always talking, smooth and practised.

Scolari and Portugal, can't like the match up with the Germans. Portugal would have preferred someone who liked to play a more Latin style of play.

Many of the questions at the press conference dealt with how the Germans were going to play Ronaldo.

One even asked German team manager Oliver Bierhoff if they would do it in a "clean way."

How clean? Usually whatever it takes to get the job done.

There's no doubt how they'll play Ronaldo, hard, harder and hardest. Whatever Ronaldo gets, he'll earn.

Portugal may catch a break, though, because both top scorer Lucas Podolski and tough midfielder Torsten Frings won't know if they can play until just before game time.

"Would I have liked someone other than Germany? Yes," said Scolari. "But that's all we have. What can I do? If I could pick a weaker opponent I would. But this is Euro and there are no more weak opponents."

Scolari has been through the wars.

When asked how he felt knowing it could be his last game, Scolari was blunt.

"I don't expect it will be my last game," he said.

And he gave the kind of look you'd get when there's no mistake you didn't make your grandfather very happy.


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