Portugal, Finland eye last berth

Updated: 21 November 2007 11:21 IST

Portugal needs just one point against visiting Finland on Wednesday to clinch its berth at Euro 2008 - and maybe appease its dispirited fans.

Portugal, Finland eye last berth
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Lisbon:

Portugal needs just one point against visiting Finland on Wednesday to clinch its berth at Euro 2008 - and maybe appease its dispirited fans.

Finland, too, is still in the running for next year's finals. If the Finns beat Portugal, they can advance from Group A as long as Serbia fails to win both of its last two matches.

Group leader Poland, with 27 points, is already through. The Portuguese are in second place with 26, followed by Finland on 23. Serbia, which has played one game less than the front-runners, has 20.

Portugal has had a patchy Euro 2008 campaign: seven wins, five draws and a defeat.

At Porto's Stadium of the Dragon, it will be boosted by the return to the bench of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has concluded a two-month touchline ban imposed by UEFA for scuffling with defender Ivica Dragutinovic at the end of Portugal's 1-1 draw with Serbia in September.

The Brazilian, who guided the Portuguese to the Euro 2004 championship match and the semifinals of last year's World Cup, needs to restore fans' confidence in the team after a miserable performance in Saturday's 1-0 win over Armenia, which prompted jeers from the home crowd.

But Scolari has to win them over without six of his first-choice players.

Hugo Almeida, the Werder Bremen striker who scored the only goal against Armenia, joined Portugal's long injury list with a thigh strain and is unlikely to recover in time. Benfica's Nuno Gomes, who missed Portugal's last three games because of injury, probably will replace him.

The absence of midfield playmaker Deco took its toll against Armenia. Scolari put winger Simao Sabrosa in the FC Barcelona player's central role, but Portugal was disjointed and rarely threatened.

"We know we didn't play well but we got the points we needed. Now we have to pick ourselves up and play better," said Manchester United midfielder Nani, who came on in the second half against Armenia.

"We won't be looking for a draw" against Finland, he said. "Finland will want to win, too. Maybe that'll be good for us because they'll have to open up and take more risks."

Finland (6-5-2) rallied to beat Azerbeijan 2-1 last weekend.

"I was very happy with the way we came back," Finland coach Roy Hodgson said. "Obviously we're still in the running for Euro 2008."

Topics : Football Bayern Munchen
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