SCOLARI PLAYS DOWN CHANCES
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has tried to reduce the pressure on his team ahead of tonight's Euro 2004 semi-final by insisting it would not be a failure if they did not lift the trophy.
But while he urged the nation not to overburden his players with expectations for the clash against Holland, he still placed his trust in his team to prevail.
Portugal have never reached the final of a major tournament, having been beaten in the 1966 World Cup semi-final by England as well as in the last four of the European Championships in 1984 and 2000.
As host nation, however, millions of supporters are hoping Scolari, who led Brazil to World Cup success just two years ago, can repeat the feat.
He insisted: "I promised the Portuguese people that we would go to the semi-finals. My players have helped me to fulfil this promise.
"Now there are four excellent teams left and only one of them can win, so it will not be a failure if we don't win the final.
"We have not yet won anything. I don't want to think about making history with Portugal. I just want the Portuguese team to be successful.
"I don't want to feel under pressure to win. The team will do their best.
"We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe and I trust them to give everything they have to win. Even if they don't win, then I shall still stand by them."
History is not exactly in Portugal's favour. Holland remain the only team to have won the European Championships after losing their first group game.
That was back in 1988 and, to make matters worse, the host country has been eliminated at the semi-final stage of each of the past four European Championships.
Moreover, the toughest task of all could lie ahead, with the tournament's most in-form team, the Czech Republic, taking on Greece in the other semi-final.
No wonder, then, that Scolari wants the crowd in Lisbon's Jose Alvalade Stadium to eclipse Holland's sea of orange tonight.
"I would ask all the Portugal fans coming to the stadium to wear something red or green as I want to them to face the orange shirts of Holland," he declared.
Scolari, who should have a fully-fit side, with Jorge Andrade and Nuno Gomes having recovered from ankle injuries, also warned referee Anders Frisk to watch out for any Dutch dirty tricks.
"We have to be careful about some situations. Especially Michael Reiziger, who sometimes lifts his foot off the pitch as he makes long throw-ins," he said.
"The referee has to be very attentive to this kind of thing. Also to van Nistelrooy, who sometimes stands in an offside position at free-kicks and takes advantage of it.
"We need to be careful of this and so does the referee. We have to know all about these small things, like not giving away any penalties."
Five players are in danger of missing any final appearance if they are booked tonight - Portugal's Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Costinha, as well as Dutch duo Andy van der Meyde and Roy Makaay.