Portugal up for tough time against Czechs

Updated: 15 June 2008 17:58 IST

After an easy outing against Turkey, Portugal are up for a fight against Czech Republic, who are among the favourites to win the tournament.


Portugal takes on the Czech Republic braced for a tougher match than in its opener against Turkey.

"We don't underestimate the Czech Republic, we respect it a lot," midfielder Deco said. "We know it is going to be just as difficult, or even more, than against Turkey."

Portugal debuted with a convincing 2-0 victory over the Turks and the matchup against the Czechs should prove more difficult.

Unlike the Turks, the Czechs arrived at Euro 2008 as one of the pre-tournament favourites. The team is coming off a semifinal appearance at Euro 2004 and a spot at the World Cup in Germany. Turkey, on the other hand, missed both tournaments and arrived only with an outside chance.

And while the Turks have never won a major international competition, the Czechs, as part of Czechoslovakia, triumphed at the 1976 European Championship.

Portugal was held by Turkey until defender Pepe's 61st-minute goal, but it dominated from the beginning and had most of the scoring chances even though star winger Cristiano Ronaldo did not have one of his best games.

The Czech Republic looked unimpressive against co-host Switzerland but managed to escape with a 1-0 victory on Saturday in Basel.

"We saw very little from that match," Deco said. "But I believe we already have an idea of how they play. They will rely on long balls, with a strong forward up front. We will take all the necessary precautions."

Jan Koller or Vaclav Sverkos, whose winner off the bench against Switzerland on Saturday marked his first international goal, will likely be that forward on Wednesday.

"We saw they have a team very strong tactically," said midfielder Raul Meireles, who scored Portugal's second goal against Turkey in injury time. "They got the goal when Switzerland was dominating, we will have to be cautious with that."

Contrary to Turkey, the Czechs had an impressive run in qualifying, advancing in first place ahead of Germany in Group D. The Turks were second to Greece in Group C, and Portugal finished behind Poland in Group A.

Celebrating its National Day, Portugal will have its final practice ahead of Wednesday's match at its Neuchatel base on Tuesday.

Nearly 200,000 Portuguese immigrants live in Switzerland and have been supporting the squad since it arrived in the country more than a week ago.

"We are very happy to see the affection and invocations we get from our public. But that doesn't affect us," Deco said. "We remain peaceful and serene and it is a good thing. We are very happy for the (Portuguese) people here in Switzerland, especially the immigrants. But that will not affect the way we play."

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to play with the same starting lineup from the victory against Turkey, including Ronaldo, whose club future continues to attract much attention in Switzerland.

Manchester United on Monday lodged an official complaint with FIFA over Real Madrid's persistent attempts to lure the winger, and the Spanish club on Tuesday said it has done nothing done.

Ronaldo remains silent on the subject, saying that he will not talk about his future until the end of the European tournament.

"I'm focused on helping Portugal advance in the Euro, that's what's important now," he said after playing Turkey.

The Portuguese are hoping he will be key against the Czechs. He did not score in the opener but was one of the most dangerous players for Portugal. He hit the post with a free kick in the first half and created several scoring chances throughout the match.

"If we play the same way, we will have a good chance to advance," Ronaldo said.

Topics : Football Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro
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