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Big Phil takes on familiar customers on Brazil return
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 02 - 2013

BERNE — Teams who lose regularly to the same opponents are known as customers in Brazilian soccer and Luiz Felipe Scolari could not have picked more reliable ones for his comeback with the five-time world champion.
The man known as Big Phil kicks off his second stint as Brazil coach against England, a team he saw off in three major tournaments in a row between 2002 and 2006, at Wembley in one of around 40 international friendlies being played this week.
Other heavyweight clashes include world and European champion Spain against South American champion Uruguay in Qatar, France's meeting with Germany at the Stade de France and Netherlands against Italy at the Amsterdam Arena.
Elsewhere, Lionel Messi, who last year equalled Gabriel Batistuta's calendar year scoring record of 12 goals for Argentina, will take aim at Sweden while Portugal is hoping for a reversal of fortune against in-form Ecuador.
Portugal has failed to win in its last three matches while Ecuador is unbeaten in six games and enjoying a best-ever 12th place in the FIFA rankings, six places above 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil.
“This is the last test before two extremely important matches next month against Israel and Azerbaijan,” Portugal coach Paulo Duarte said. “The objective is to improve in-game situations that have been failing.”
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda, whose side is second in the South American World Cup qualifying group, added: “Portugal will be a good yardstick.”
Spain is a popular venue with Chile facing Egypt at Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium, Russia and Iceland clashing in Marbella and Romania taking on Australia in Malaga.
Chile will be looking for their third successive win since Jorge Sampaoli, regarded as a disciple of their former coach Marcelo Bielsa, replaced Claudio Borghi.
Belgium's much-heralded new generation host Slovakia but will be without injured defender Vincent Kompany.
Scolari, who led Brazil to its fifth world title in 2002 and was called back in November to lead its attempt to win a sixth on home soil next year, has brought back Ronaldinho and goalkeeper Julio Cesar for his first game back in the hot seat. England's last win against Brazil was at Wembley in March 1990, with Brazil winning four of the eight meeting since then.
Scolari is expected to give his side a more rugged style than Menezes, who had been trying to create a Brazilian version of Spain and Barcelona's tiki-taka.
Menezes had even dabbled with the idea of playing without a recognized striker, something Scolari quickly reversed by naming Fred and Luis Fabiano in his squad.
England manager Roy Hodgson hopes Ashley Cole will be treated with respect when the much-maligned Chelsea defender wins his 100th international cap.
Meanwhile, Spain has included Malaga's promising playmaker Isco and Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta in its squad but there was no place for Swansea City midfielder Michu or striker Fernando Torres.
Uruguay has taken a battering recently, losing 4-0 away to Colombia, 4-1 in Bolivia and 3-0 in Argentina in the South American World Cup qualifiers since September. — Agencies


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