Scolari wary of Ballack's qualities

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has warned his players to pay "special attention" to German captain Michael Ballack.

Scolari has poured lavish praise on the midfield maestro he will be managing at Chelsea next season.

Ballack was the man who booked the Germans their ticket to the last eight with a thunderbolt free-kick in the 1-0 win over Austria on Monday.

And Scolari believes the elegant 31-year-old is the player most likely to wreck his team's Euro dream.

"Ballack is an important player, a great player," said Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach.

"He has a lot of technical qualities and is one of the great players in the tournament. Maybe he has hit peak form over the last two years.

"Ballack is excellent, one of the athletes who has been a highlight of the tournament so far along with four or five others.

"He deserves special attention."

Germany's stuttering form in the pool stages means Portugal will probably start as slight favourites.

That is what Germany have been saying any way, with Ballack in particular piling the pressure on the side who lost the Euro 2004 final to Greece on home turf.

Simao Sabrosa is taking those mind games with a pinch of salt.

"They are trying to pressurise us, that is normal. But pressure is what we are used to," said the Atletico Madrid winger.

"For us, it doesn't register because we are concentrating on the game.

"We are always on an equal footing. We know our value, our qualities but we also know that Germany have been playing together since 2000. So they have a strong group.

"Since the last World Cup, the base Portuguese team has disappeared and we are creating a new team. That speaks for itself.

"We will try to make this the game of our lives."

Scolari will revert to his favoured line-up after resting most of his key players for Portugal's final Group A game, a 2-0 defeat to Switzerland.

With a week's rest, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Carvalho should be fresher than their German counterparts, whose first-choice team will be playing their second match in three days