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Sverkos goal gives Czech Republic 1-0 win over Switzerland in Euro 2008 opener

Sverkos goal gives Czech Republic 1-0 win over Switzerland in Euro 2008 opener

Like two years ago, the Czech Republic opened a major tournament with a win. Now it needs to avoid a letup, like the one that led to first-round elimination at the 2006 World Cup.
Vaclav Sverkos scored his first international goal to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 win over co-host Switzerland on Saturday in the opening match of the European Championship.
Sverkos, making only his third appearance for the national team, scored from 16 meters (yards) with the outside of his right foot in the 71st minute, shortly after coming on as a substitute.
The win gives the Czech Republic a great jump on advancing to the quarterfinals. But the Czechs have been here before, beating the United States 3-0 two years ago in Germany before losing to Ghana and Italy.
"It was not our best performance. We will be better than this," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner.
They will need to be.
Switzerland controlled the opening match of Euro 2008 for long stretches and could have taken the lead if not for the strong goalkeeping of Petr Cech. The Swiss outshot the Czechs 13-8 and had 55 percent of total possession.
But the Swiss lost not only the opener in front of a home crowd of 39,730 at St. Jakob Park, it lost perhaps its best player when influential captain and record scorer Alexander Frei injured his right knee shortly before halftime. The 28-year-old striker was taken off the field in tears before returning to sit on the bench holding crutches.
The defeat also capped a difficult week in which coach Koebi Kuhn's wife was admitted to a hospital after an epileptic attack. She remained in an induced coma on Saturday.
"It's a disaster, of course, to lose our captain in the first game the way we did," said Kuhn, who declined to talk about his own family issues.
Switzerland missed a chance to equalize in the 80th. Tranquillo Barnetta's low shot was stopped by Cech after defender Tomas Ujfalusi appeared to handle the ball in the area. Johan Vonlanthen got the loose ball but his shot hit the crossbar, and the chance was over.
Before the late drama, there had been few clear-cut scoring chances, with the youthful Swiss team lacking a cutting edge in front of goal and the experienced Czechs happy to soak up pressure and look for chances on the counterattack.
Perhaps it was an ominous sign that Switzerland had not played a competitive match since being eliminated by Ukraine in the second round of the 2006 World Cup on penalty kicks after two hours of scoreless play.
But the Czech Republic, known in previous tournaments for its attacking football, also started defensively, with five in the midfield, and record scorer Jan Koller alone up front.
A defensive mistake led to Switzerland's first chance. Frei stole the ball off Jan Polak in midfield, and the Swiss record holder with 35 international goals played a quick one-two with strike partner Marco Streller, but shot wide from 20 meters (yards).
In the 21st, Switzerland had its best opportunity of the first half. Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio's long clearance reached Frei after evading the entire defense, but Cech rushed out of his goal to make a strong save with his feet.
Frei had another shot saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper in the 36th minute, after Tomas Galasek gave the ball away to Barnetta. Cech could only send the shot in the direction of Streller, but the striker was whistled for offside.
Shortly before the break, Frei was fouled by Zdenek Grygera and was sobbing when he hobbled off the field. He later walked to the dressing room and was replaced at the start of the second half by Hakan Yakin.
While the Czechs focus on not letting history repeat itself, Switzerland is hoping it can emulate 2004 host Portugal, which lost its opener to Greece but reached the final _ only to lose again to Greece.
"That's also an absolute possibility for us," Kuhn said. "We are going to build on this performance."
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Lineups:
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio, Stephan Lichtsteiner (Johan Vonlanthen, 75), Patrick Mueller, Philippe Senderos, Ludovic Magnin, Valon Behrami (Eren Derdiyok, 84), Gokhan Inler, Gelson Fernandes, Tranquillo Barnetta, Alexander Frei (Hakan Yakin, 46), Marco Streller.
Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Zdenek Grygera, David Rozehnal, Tomas Ujfalusi, Marek Jankulovski, Libor Sionko (Stanislav Vlcek, 83), David Jarolim (Radoslav Kovac, 87), Tomas Galasek, Jan Polak, Jaroslav Plasil, Jan Koller (Vaclav Sverkos, 56).


Updated : 2021-08-05 18:12 GMT+08:00