LONDON (AFP) - Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari believes England could be one of his country's main rivals when the South American nation stages next year's World Cup finals.
Former Chelsea manager Scolari has thrice been in charge of teams that have knocked England out of major tournaments - with Brazil at the 2002 World Cup and then with Portugal at the 2004 European Championships and 2006 World Cup.
But Scolari, who was once courted for the England job but is now in his second spell as Brazil manager, pointed out that two of those matches were decided by penalty shoot-outs.
And he said Roy Hodgson's side, bidding to become the first England team to win a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, could yet prove something of a surprise package.
"England are one of the teams who could shine at the World Cup," Scolari told Monday's edition of Britain's Guardian newspaper. "Roy is doing a great job in bringing new players to the team and is overseeing a generational change. England have a good team and I think they are much better technically these days.
"People say I'm a specialist in defeating England but the victories with Portugal against them in Euro 2004 and in Germany in 2006 were on penalties, really tight games. You know how tense shoot-outs are.
"I think England are missing the confidence to take that step that finally puts them among the top four," he added ahead of their friendly against Germany at London's Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.
Scolari, 65, was in charge of Chelsea for just seven months in 2008 but he insisted his time with the London club had not put him off the idea of a return to the English Premier League.
"If I had to return, I would do it," he said. "Chelsea are a spectacular club and I still want them to do well. The supporters are amazing and even though things didn't work out I still remember how nice the fans were to me.
"I was upset by the way my departure from Chelsea happened. I wish my work at Chelsea could have lasted longer."