Gentleman and a Scolari
Jon Holmes watches Chelsea-bound Big Phil Scolari stalk the touchline for Portugal, while the prospect of penalties to decide Group A also appeals.
Last Updated: 12/06/08 2:33pm
As I switched on the radio after Turkey's thrilling win over Switzerland on Wednesday (my friend Neil and I were about to crack on with the Eye Player Euro 2008 tournament on the PlayStation), an in-depth discussion was already raging on the two big stories of the night. Several people were talking over one another, and initially we both thought that Luiz Felipe Scolari had been hired as 'The Apprentice' while Lee McQueen had been appointed the new manager of Chelsea.
We quickly realised our mistake, but for a few seconds various scenarios were unfolding in our minds. How long would it take for Big Phil to fall out with Sir Alan Sugar and slap him round the chops? Serbia's Ivica Dragutinovic was on the receiving end of Scolari's rage during Euro 2008 qualifying and that was after a 1-1 draw. What would be the outcome if the belligerent bearded businessman went toe-to-toe with the fiery Gene Hackman lookalike over a botched order for Amstrad Sky+ boxes?
And how would Lee handle the pressure in the Stamford Bridge hotseat? He looked pretty uncomfortable in the interview process the other work so the press conferences would certainly be a struggle. I suppose the 'reverse pterodactyl' impression might inspire the Chelsea troops at half-time, it seems to have kept the other Apprentice candidates rolling in the aisles for the last two months. By the way, I'm yet to work out where the 'reverse' comes into it - isn't it just a straightforward pterodactyl impression? Yet another misleading statement from McQueen I feel. He's better off with Sir Alan.*
Scolari was in fine form on the touchline in Geneva on Wednesday, barking instructions to anyone within a 20-metre radius as Portugal played out out an exciting encounter with the Czech Republic. We keep being told that his English isn't up to much, but language is a secondary communication tool to Big Phil. It's all in the extravagant hand gestures, the furious shaking of the head, the bulging eyes that strike fear into the hearts of lesser men. I can't wait to see him rattle a few cages at Chelsea. This is, after all, a man who admired the work of dictator General Pinochet in Chile, and who has said he will not tolerate any suspect bedroom activity from his players. Just as well he's already got two Portuguese full-backs at the club in Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira, because I can already think of one Englishman who may be surplus to requirements.
Turkey managed to triumph over both the weather and Switzerland at a sodden St Jakob-Park in the evening game. After all the talk of 'the Battle of Istanbul' two years ago, the torrential rainfall washed out any potential fireworks, as the players simply concentrated on trying to pass the ball through the puddles. With his side trailing at half-time, 'the Emperor' Fatih Terim made two substitutions which soon paid off with Semih heading in from Nihat's excellent left-wing cross. Questions had to be asked about the goalkeeper, although I can hardly criticise after some woeful performances between the sticks in recent post-work kickabouts. And when Arda Turan scored the stoppage-time winner, Swiss coach Kobi Kuhn - a dead ringer for John Lithgoe out of Third Rock From The Sun - looked very confused indeed. The Austro-Swiss bid won the right to host Euro 2008 five-and-a-half years ago, and now both nations could be out of their own tournament within six days. Too cruel.
As for the Turks, if they draw with the Czechs in Geneva on Sunday a penalty shoot-out will be needed to separate the sides and decide who goes through to the quarter-finals. Petr Cech would be favourite to come out on top in that one, but Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel has great credentials too. Remember his performance for Fenerbahce against Sevilla in the Champions League round of 16? Volkan let in two soft goals, but then performed heroics in the shoot-out with three spot-kick saves.
It should make for an exciting finale in Group A, but until then someone else will be hogging the limelight. The Premier League may lose Cristiano Ronaldo, but with Big Phil about to start work at Chelsea the viewing figures surely won't suffer.
* Breaking news - thanks to Sporting Life's Chris Hammer for providing this: "In an interview today, Lee explained where the 'reverse' comes into that impression of the flying dinosaur. He claims it's because he's standing still and by swinging his arms backwards, the dinosaur can hover in the air rather than fly forward! A bit odd, but thats his reason." So there you have it.