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Portugal and Turkey debut in European Championship trying to show their value

Portugal and Turkey debut in European Championship trying to show their value

While Portugal is hoping to repeat its successful campaigns from Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, Turkey is looking to show it's back in form at this month's European Championship after missing the other two competitions.
Led by winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal wants another good showing this month to solidify its spot in the elite of European football. It is coming off a runner-up finish at Euro 2004 and a semifinal appearance at the World Cup two years later.
But before it can think about another trip to the final, Portugal has to turn its attention to Saturday's Group A match against Turkey in Geneva.
"Success for Portugal is to begin the Euro with a victory," coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Friday. "Step by step. If it's not a victory, then a draw. We can't forget we lost the first match of Euro 2004."
Portugal lost the opener that year 2-1 to Greece and had to find ways to recover. It eventually advanced from the group stage before losing again to Greece in the final in front of its own fans.
"Without a doubt, our main goal is to win this first match," winger Simao Sabrosa said. "We were at a disadvantage after the opener in 2004 and we don't want to go through that again."
Scolari twice faced Turkey when he led his native Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title. The Brazilians won 2-1 in the group opener and 1-0 in the semifinals.
"We need to have a lot of respect for them. I really like Turkish football, I like the way they play," he said. "I had difficulties with Brazil against them."
Portugal beat Turkey two times in the European tournament, first in the group stage in 1996 and then in the quarterfinals four years later.
The Portuguese feel they know what to expect from the Turks this year.
"They changed a lot after missing the last Euro and the last World Cup," Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo said. "But we have learned a lot about them already. They play well as a team ... very similar to us. We will need to be prepared."
Turkey coach Fatih Terim has been saying all along that he wants a good performance at the European competition to put Turkey back on the map in world football.
"We have not attended any tournament since 2002," he said. "We are going to Switzerland to make the world remember us."
Bayer Munich defender Hamit Altintop praised Portugal, but was as confident as his coach with Turkey's chances.
"Portugal has high-quality players under an experienced and successful coach. When you look at their recent years, they had good results," he said. "But to those who see Portugal as the favorites, I'd like to ask: How well do you know Turkey? I don't think they know Turkey well.
"They may know some of the players, but they don't know well enough and that may allow us do something. It's normal that Switzerland and Portugal see themselves as the group favorites. But to my view, we are advantaged."
Villarreal forward Nihat Kahveci said Turkey respects the Portuguese players but is not afraid of them, and that focusing too much on Ronaldo could be dangerous.
"Portugal is not all about Ronaldo," he said. "They have other very important players. I see them as a team. Ronaldo will not win a game on his own. He needs his friends' help."
Turkey moved up five spots in the latest FIFA rankings, reaching 20th place. In its three warm-up matches before the Euro 2008, it beat Slovakia 1-0, lost to Uruguay 3-2 and defeated Finland 2-0.
Portugal, on the other hand, dropped two spots in FIFA's list. It got past Georgia 2-0 in its final warm-up match.
Portugal struggled in European qualifying, finishing with a 7-6-1 record and barely advancing to the finals after a 0-0 draw against visiting Finland in its final match.
"The difficulties we had in qualifying were not normal," Sabrosa said. "But the most important thing was to qualify. We can't look back now."
The Portuguese are playing in the final phase of the European competition for the fifth time. It has a 10-4-5 record, and last year's appearance in the championship match marked its best performance so far.
Turkey is in the European tournament for the third time and has a 1-1-5 record. It's best outing was when it lost to the Portuguese squad in the 2000 quarterfinals. It will be Portugal's first major competition since Luis Figo and veteran striker Pauleta _ the nation's all-time leading scorer _ retired from the national team.
Co-host Switzerland will play the Czech Republic in Basel in the other Group A match Saturday.
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Associated Press writer C. Onur Ant contributed to this report from Nyon, Switzerland.