BADEN-BADEN, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – Sven-Goran Eriksson insists he will not be motivated by revenge when he comes up against old foe Luiz Felipe Scolari yet again. And that, say the critics, is part of his problem.
Eriksson and England have been dumped out of two major tournaments by teams coached by Scolari, losing to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup before exiting to Portugal two years later at Euro 2004.
Now the burly Brazilian is blocking Eriksson’s path once again as England and Portugal prepare for a match that is being billed as a clash between Mr. Motivator and Mr. Magoo.
But although Scolari has proved to be Eriksson’s nemesis in two meetings so far — and would have been his successor as England coach had he not rebuffed the FA’s advances last month — Eriksson is putting personal rivalry to one side ahead of Saturday’s match in Gelsenkirchen.
"I am not a man of revenge," Eriksson said. "It’s not a word in my head," he added, unconcerned that his answer highlights a mild-mannered nature that critics say has become a weakness.
A more charismatic coach, the theory goes, would be driven by a burning desire to avoid a third straight defeat in major tournaments to a bitter rival, using past failures as a powerful motivational tool.
Instead Eriksson talks of not being motivated by revenge and treating Saturday’s quarter-final as just another game.
A perceived failure to communicate passion to his players at crucial moments, most notably at half-time in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final against Brazil, is one of the most damning accusations levelled at Eriksson.
"We needed Winston Churchill and instead we got Iain Duncan-Smith," lamented one England player of Eriksson’s half-time team-talk in Shizuoka, in an unflattering comparison to the hapless former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party.
The passionate, arm-waving Scolari, meanwhile, is revered by Eriksson’s critics because he is everything that the undemonstrative Swede isn’t.