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Czechs trying not to get distracted against Portugal at Euro 2008 by focusing on Ronaldo

Czechs trying not to get distracted against Portugal at Euro 2008 by focusing on Ronaldo

With all the plaudits Cristiano Ronaldo has received for his play at Manchester United this season, the Czech Republic could be forgiven for focusing all its efforts on stopping Portugal's flying winger when the teams meet in the European Championship on Wednesday.
But, with both teams knowing that a win could secure a place in the tournament quarterfinals, the Czechs know there is a whole lot more to Portugal's game than just one player.
"Ronaldo is not alone," defender Marek Jankulovski said. "Everybody talks about Ronaldo, but they have a number of dangerous players. Deco stars in the midfield, Gomes is dangerous up front, as well as Simao and Quaresma."
Deco, Nuno Gomes, Simao Sabrosa and Ricardo Quaresma each have the skill to make the most of any space left by a defense focusing too much on one player, and Portugal managed to beat Turkey 2-0 in its opening game without any of them scoring.
"I saw a fantastic team," Jankulovski said. "They have all excellent skills. Their attack is a great force."
And the Czechs aren't just making Portugal favorite for Wednesday's match _ they're backing their opponents to have a huge say on the outcome of the tournament as a whole.
"The Portuguese are one of the favorites," said striker Vaclav Sverkos, who came off the bench Saturday to give his team a 1-0 win over co-host Switzerland with his first international goal. "They have many players from top European clubs. You could hardly find a tougher opponent."
Another of those top players is Brazil-born Pepe, the 25-year-old central defender _ playing in a major competition for the first time _ who scored against Turkey in the 61st minute before Raul Meireles sealed the victory in injury time.
Portugal is trying to reach its second consecutive final at the European Championship. Led by Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Portugal lost to Greece in the Euro 2004 final for its best performance in five appearances at the tournament and reached the semifinals at the World Cup two years later.
The Czechs have reached the European Championship for a fourth straight time since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Four years ago, the Czechs won accolades for the attacking soccer that helped them reach the Euro 2004 semifinals with surprise wins over Germany and the Netherlands, although their best result came in 1996 when they reached the final.
With the absence of captain and playmaker Tomas Rosicky, coach Karel Bruckner used an unusual defensive lineup against Switzerland with lone striker Jan Koller up front. The Czechs failed to impress, escaping with a lucky win.
"Portugal is a different class than Switzerland," midfielder Libor Sionko said. "We have to improve a great deal."
Jankulovski said the wins in the openers had boosted confidence of both teams.
"We all know that if we get a good result on Wednesday, we'll advance," he said. "We have to believe that we're able to defeat even as tough an opponent as Portugal is."
The two teams have met once. At Euro 96, the Czechs knocked out Portugal from the tournament with a 1-0 quarterfinal win.
"The key is not to concede a goal," captain Tomas Ujfalusi said. "We have to be focused and convert any little chance we can get."


Updated : 2021-05-09 22:53 GMT+08:00