Scolari rues selection mistake

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted he had made a “big mistake” in only making eight changes to his starting line-up after his team lost their final Euro 2008 Group A match 2-0 to Switzerland.

Hakan Yakin’s slick second-half double gave Swiss coach Kobi Kuhn a victorious send-off as the co-hosts bowed out of the tournament with three points.

The Young Boys midfielder, who also netted his team’s only other goal of the tournament in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Turkey, struck 19 minutes from time and then again from the penalty spot 11 minutes later to secure the triumph.

Only goalkeeper Ricardo and defenders Paulo Ferreira and Pepe were retained from the team which started Portugal’s opening two games – the wins over Turkey and Czech Republic which sealed top spot in the pool and a quarter-final berth.

“I made a big mistake,” said Scolari. “I should have made 11 changes. But I reasoned like a coach that thought his squad would play normally.”

Ferreira, Fernando Meira, Miguel and Jorge Ribeiro all picked up bookings which will be carried over into the knockout stages.

“I should have replaced 11 players,” the Brazilian tactician reiterated. “I wouldn’t have run any risk if I had done that.

“I made a calculation. I tried to see what players had been playing more during the season, how many had been injured.

“That’s why I decided to replace eight, to try to keep a certain amount of consistency that could help the squad.”

Portugal hit the woodwork twice through Pepe and Nani but could not find the net, much to Scolari’s disappointment.

“We had a few opportunities,” he said. “(But) we didn’t score a goal to give us an advantage and later we will see the consequences of this.

“I couldn’t have imagined things would end this way. I should have been more careful and replaced 11 rather than eight players.”

In contrast, Kuhn was delighted with his side’s display and could barely hide his emotion at the full-time whistle.

The Swiss players unfurled a banner saying ’Merci Kobi’ on their lap of honour in recognition of the 64-year-old’s seven-year tenure.

“I was extremely pleased but of course there’s also nostalgia setting in already,” said Kuhn.

“I was very surprised – I didn’t know anything about the banner they presented. Many of the players have played with me for many years so I was very moved to received this expression of gratitude.

“We have been through some dire straits but all in all it has been a wonderful time.”

It has been a far from smooth campaign for the co-hosts with Kuhn’s wife hospitalised just prior to the tournament after suffering an epileptic fit and star striker Alexander Frei ruled out of the competition in the opening match.

Two defeats despite encouraging performances meant the Swiss knew they would finish bottom of Group A regardless of the result.

But the win over Portugal left Kuhn contemplating what might have been.

“If we had got something as we deserved in our first two matches then it looks now like we would have qualified for the quarter-finals,” he said.

“Unfortunately we have to go home, we’re out of the tournament but still the team has achieved the most important aspect – we were able to please the fans who have always believed in us.”

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