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Pepe looking to give more happiness to Portugal in remainder of European Championship

Pepe looking to give more happiness to Portugal in remainder of European Championship

After a perfect debut in the European Championship, Pepe is already looking for more.
In his first international appearance in a major competition, Pepe scored the decisive go-ahead goal in Portugal's 2-0 victory over Turkey in the opener Saturday in Geneva and was named the man of the match.
The central defender couldn't have asked for a better debut, but he wants more.
"I have to keep working hard with my teammates," Pepe said. "I want to give even more happiness to Portugal."
Portugal plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday in Geneva and then Switzerland four days later in Basel, and another victory in one of the two Group A matches should be enough to give the Portuguese a second-round berth. The Czechs beat Switzerland 1-0 on Saturday in Basel.
The 25-year-old Pepe, who was born in Brazil and is at Real Madrid, had played only three matches with Portugal before Saturday _ two warm-up games for the European tournament and the final qualifying encounter against Finland.
"I have never felt more Portuguese than I'm feeling today," Pepe said. "Portugal gave me everything and I needed to make my retribution."
Pepe's debut was so impressive that after the match he was attracting similar attention from reporters as star winger Cristiano Ronaldo received.
Pepe's defensive prowess is what led him to a multimillion transfer from FC Porto to Madrid in 2007, but on Saturday he showed at Stade de Geneve that he has other skills to offer.
The goal that snapped the match's scoreless drought in the 61st minute displayed his overall ability.
Pepe stole a ball near midfield and quickly connected a passing combination with striker Nuno Gomes. The Portuguese sped past defender Emre Asik to the ball inside the penalty area and sent a right-footed shot into the net.
"This is one of my characteristics, I like to attack any time I can," Pepe said. "I kept believing until the end on that play because I knew it could work."
In the first half, Pepe had already displayed another one of his strengths, rising high above the Turkish defenders and heading in a corner kick in, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
"In the first goal I thought I was on(side), but I didn't let it affect me and kept working to help the team," he said.
Pepe was seen pumping up the Portuguese fans just before the final whistle, raising his arms and asking for their support.
After the match, the softly spoken defender said he could "hardly describe" his emotions over his first international goal.
"I'm not only happy for the goal," Pepe said. "I had a great match and that's also important."
The debut should finally put to rest any doubts over whether he should start for Portugal. He had said before that he was fighting for a spot with Fernando Meira and Bruno Alves, with Ricardo Carvalho the first choice in central defense.
Pepe never made it in Brazilian soccer and was barely known in the country before moving to Portuguese football at age 18.
He only gained notoriety after moving to Maritimo in 2001, eventually joining Porto and helping the team win the 2004 Champions League and World Club Championship. He helped Madrid win this season's Spanish league title.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and playmaker Deco are the other two Brazil-born members of the Portugal squad at Euro 2008.
On Sunday, Portugal opened its practice session to the public for the second time since arriving in Neuchatel, the team's base during the tournament, and received a warm reception from the 12,000 Portuguese fans who packed the La Maladiere stadium. Pepe and the rest of the starters underwent a light training session while the reserves did most of the work.
Portugal is trying to repeat the successful campaigns at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. The Portuguese finished runner-up to Greece at the last European championship and reached the semifinals of the World Cup in Germany, losing to France.


Updated : 2021-05-16 20:04 GMT+08:00