Euro '08: Day 1 ReviewPosted on: 09 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
The Czech Republic and Portugal both win on the opening day of Euro 2008.
Euro 2008 kicked off on Saturday afternoon with Group A favourites Portugal and the Czech Republic both picking up valuable opening wins.
The Portuguese looked stylish in brushing a youthful Turkish side aside in the evening game but beforehand the Czechs were laboured and lucky to escape with three points against the co-hosts Switzerland.
After a 13 minute opening ceremony, the Swiss kicked off Euro 2008 in Basel but it was substitute Vaclav Sverkos’ goal that gave the Czech Republic a winning start.
Switzerland 0-1 Czech Republic
Portugal 2-0 Turkey
Alexander Frei was twice denied by Petr Cech before the Swiss skipper was forced off injured and his replacement Hakan Yakin wasted a header after the break.
With under 20 minutes left on the clock, Sverkos slotted home a low volley from 12 yards after latching on to a ball over the top of a static Swiss defence.
The co-hosts were denied a late equaliser when Johan Vonlanthen’s volley hit the bar.
Realistically, the tournament’s co-hosts needed to get something out of their opening game and they started as though they were absolutely determined to do so.
But the defeat, coupled with Frei’s injury means qualification could now be beyond them.
After being helped from the field midway through the first half in tears, the Borussia Dortmund forward looked in serious pain as he was led away by the Swiss medical team.
Appearing on the bench for the second half on crutches, news filtered through that Frei’s tournament had come to a premature end.
The 28-year-old will be sidelined for six weeks with a partially ruptured left knee ligament.
One of Euro 2008’s top “outsiders”, the Czechs were far from their best in the curtain-raiser.
Giant striker Jan Koller was isolated and ineffective in attack but coach Karel Bruckner pulled off a masterstroke by throwing on the inexperienced Sverkos early in the second period.
On in place of Koller, Sverkos’ second-half strike broke Switzerland’s resistance and gave the Banik Ostrava hitman a goal to saviour.
Swiss spirits were deflated in defeat and they must now take all three points from Turkey when the two teams meet on Wednesday.
Czech Republic Vs Portugal (5pm ITV)
Switzerland Vs Turkey (7.45pm BBC)
The Turks were overshadowed by the impressive Portuguese in the evening game.
Portugal, runners up in their own country four years ago, put in a vibrant performance, sending out a clear statement that they intend to go one better this time around.
Cristiano Ronaldo continued where he left off in England with some glimpses of dazzling skill to delight the Geneva crowd but “Big Phil” Scolari’s men had to wait until the 61st minute to grab the opening goal.
Real Madrid centre half Pepe surged out of defence to beat Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel after a slick exchange involving Nuno Gomes.
Ronaldo hit a post from a first half free-kick and Gomes was twice denied by the woodwork after the break.
Turkey, with London-born Colin Kazim-Richards prominent, were always in with a chance but crucially lacked a cutting edge when opportunities presented themselves.
The Turks were made to pay for their inability to forge out any true goalscoring chances late on when Raul Meireles slid home the second after a flowing move.
Portugal now turn their attentions to the Czech Republic in a game likely to decide the winners of Group A.
On their showing in the first round of fixtures, Scolari’s side should have no problems in finishing the group with a 100% record.
Turkey will take on the Swiss in a do-or-die match for both sides.
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