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Despite fan euphoria, Portugal trying to remain cautious after opening win at 2008 Euro

Despite fan euphoria, Portugal trying to remain cautious after opening win at 2008 Euro

Portugal heads into its second group match at the European Championship with caution despite the fan euphoria created by the solid opening win against Turkey.
It won't be an easy task, however, especially after the warm reception players and coaches received from the 12,000 Portuguese fans who packed the La Maladiere stadium in Neuchatel to watch the team practice Sunday, a day after the 2-0 victory over Turkey in Geneva.
As favorite as ever in Group A, Portugal faces the Czech Republic in Geneva on Wednesday, then closes out the group stage four days later against co-host Switzerland in Basel.
"Our responsibility has to remain the same," said midfielder Raul Meireles, who scored Portugal's second goal Saturday. "When we got here we already knew that there would be a lot of people supporting us and we knew of our responsibility. We need to try to give back with our work and do everything we can to advance."
There are more than 170,000 Portuguese living in Switzerland, and local authorities said nearly 20,000 fans were in Neuchatel on Sunday to try to get a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates.
"We knew there were a lot of Portuguese immigrants (in Switzerland)," Meireles said. "But we had no idea that so many would show up. We were surprised, but very happy."
Those who were able to watch the practice on Sunday chanted loudly at the players' every move, cheering each time one of them took the time to wave back to the stands. A stadium announcer had to ask the fans to make less noise so players and coaches could hear each other on the field.
"It's a great responsibility to represent the nation and this crowd," midfielder Joao Moutinho said. "We have to keep working to achieve the results that all of them are hoping for."
The players distributed T-shirts to some of the fans in what was only the second practice open to the public since Portugal arrived in Switzerland a week ago.
All players participated in a light training session with a few ball drills, and most of the work was done by the reserves who did not play Saturday.
Goalkeeper Nuno Espirito Santo was already in action despite arriving in Switzerland just hours earlier to replace Quim Silva, who fractured his right wrist in the team's last practice before the match against Turkey and had to be dropped from the squad.
"We couldn't get tickets for the first one, so I'm thrilled to be here," 14-year-old Daniel Luzio said. "Especially after the great victory yesterday."
Portugal dominated Saturday's match and won thanks to an impressive performance by Brazil-born Pepe. The 25-year-old central defender _ playing in a major competition for the first time _ snapped a 0-0 draw with a goal in the 61st minute before Meireles sealed the victory in injury time, giving the team its third triumph over Turkey in the European tournament.
Portugal is trying to reach its second consecutive final at the European Championship. The team led by Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari lost to Greece in the Euro 2004 final at home. Portugal also reached the semifinals at the 2006 World Cup, losing to France.
The Portuguese are playing in the final phase of the European competition for the fifth time. Last tournament's appearance in the championship match marked its best performance so far.


Updated : 2021-02-28 17:48 GMT+08:00