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Scolari, Eriksson take rivalry into China league showdown

29 October 2015, 12:16

Beijing - Ex-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson faces another failure at the hands of his nemesis, the former Brazil and Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, in China this weekend as Asia's richest football league reaches a climax.

Scolari's Brazil dumped Eriksson's England out of the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, and he went on to do the same again with Portugal at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

The Brazilian now coaches Guangzhou Evergrande, the Chinese Super League defending champions, who are top of the table with one game to go.

Shanghai SIPG, managed by Eriksson, are two points behind and with tied teams ranked according to their head-to-head results, Evergrande's superior record means a draw away to fourth-placed Beijing Guoan will be enough for the leaders.

But although Evergrande are unbeaten in 20 competitive games since Scolari took charge in May, their opponents in the capital will not be doing them any favours.

Also read: Eriksson, Cannavaro cash lift hope for China

"Beijing is no fan of Guangzhou, the nouveau riche upstarts from the south," the website One World Soccer noted in a commentary.

"Eriksson has had many battles with Scolari over the years and has usually come off second-best. There is still time to turn this around," it added.

If Evergrande slip up, Eriksson's SIPG have a much easier task on paper, at home to lowly Liaoning Whowin.

- Following the money -

The pensive Swede has the mien of a Scandinavian philosopher, but his private life was the subject of lurid tabloid exposes during his time in Britain.

The moustachioed Scolari is more ebullient and is known as "Big Phil" in the English-speaking world, a translation of his Brazilian nickname "Felipao".

He won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and took Portugal to the Euro 2004 final. But his second spell with Brazil ended in a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil in last year's World Cup semi-finals.

Both men are part of a wave of foreign managers and players who have moved to China on lucrative contracts. Scolari enjoys the services of the Brazilian quartet Robinho, Paulinho, Ricardo Goulart and Elkeson, while Argentina's Dario Conca plays for Shanghai SIPG.

The result is rising standards and increasing interest in a league which also features Australia's Tim Cahill and earlier attracted Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

The Chinese game has long suffered from deep-seated corruption, but Beijing has made strong efforts to clean it up and President Xi Jinping presents himself as an avid fan who hopes China can host and even win a World Cup.

Performance has improved as a result of massive injections of cash from club sponsors including real estate tycoons, with e-commerce giant Alibaba also taking a stake in Evergrande last year.

The club's 2013 AFC Champions League victory was seen as a major breakthrough and they are now eyeing a second continental title in three seasons.

Beijing-based company Tiao Dongli spent 8 billion yuan ($1.25 billion) on the CSL broadcast rights for the next five years, according to the official Xinhua news agency, a huge increase on the price paid for the 2015 season.

The deal "boosts our confidence to build CSL into one of the top leagues in the world", Xinhua quoted Chinese Football Association vice-chairman Zhang Jian as saying.

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