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Portugal, Czech Republic meet with eye on European Championship quarterfinals

Portugal, Czech Republic meet with eye on European Championship quarterfinals

Full of confidence after opening wins, Portugal and the Czech Republic meet Wednesday with a chance to assure a quarterfinal berth at the European Championship.
Portugal is fresh of a solid 2-0 victory over Turkey, while the Czechs comes boosted by a difficult 1-0 win over co-host Switzerland. The winner at Stade de Geneve will move into good position to advance from Group A, which is currently led by Portugal on goal difference.
The Portuguese impressed more than the Czechs in the opener, with Cristiano Ronaldo and teammates pressuring the Turks from the beginning and staying in control throughout the match in Geneva.
A pre-tournament favorite, Portugal gained even more confidence with the victory, and its huge fan base in Switzerland is more optimistic than ever. Players are trying to be cautious, however.
"We have to prepare the same way. It's another extremely important match," midfielder Joao Moutinho said. "We know it's a decisive match. If we get a good result it's almost certain we will advance from the group."
If Switzerland and Turkey draw their match in Basel, the winner of the Portugal-Czech Republic match will automatically secure a second-round berth.
"We don't underestimate the Czech Republic, we respect it a lot," midfielder Deco said. "We know it is going to be just as difficult, or even more, than against Turkey. The fact they had difficulties in the first match doesn't mean anything."
The Czech Republic, which reached the semifinals at Euro 2004, opened with an unimpressive 1-0 victory over Switzerland in Basel behind a Vaclav Sverkos' first international goal.
"Portugal is a different class than Switzerland," midfielder Libor Sionko said. "We have to improve a great deal."
Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner, who concedes Portugal is a favorite in Group A, will have all of his 23 players available for Wednesday's match after right back Zdenek Pospech recovered from a virus and resumed training Sunday.
The Czechs are hoping for a repeat of the 1996 European tournament, when they eliminated Portugal in the quarterfinals with a goal by Karel Poborsky in extra time. The Czechs eventually lost in the final to Germany 2-1, also in extra time, in the team's best finish in the competition so far.
"What is clear is the winner (Wednesday) will advance," Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "I'm sure six points will be enough to advance from this group. Both teams will go for a win, (but) even if the match ends in a draw it would be a good result for both sides."
In the last European tournament, the Czech Republic reached the semifinals by beating favorites Germany and the Netherlands. It lost to eventual champion Greece in extra time.
The Czechs are participating in the final phase of the European tournament for the fourth consecutive time, and seventh overall. They won the title in 1976 before their split from Slovakia. The squad was eliminated in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
This year Bruckner is without star playmaker Tomas Rosicky, who was dropped from the Euro 2008 squad last month after undergoing an operation on his left knee.
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Portugal to the semifinals in Germany, is set to use the same starting 11 from the opener against the Turks. A spot is guaranteed for by Brazil-born defender Pepe, who scored the decisive goal in the 61st minute.
Portugal, trying to win its first major title, lost in the World Cup semifinals to France in 2006 and was runner-up to Greece four years ago on home soil. It is participating in the European final tournament for the fifth time.
"We have to keep showing our value, step by step," Moutinho said.
The Portuguese have been supported by several thousand Portuguese immigrants at its base in Neuchatel. On Sunday, the team received a warm reception from 12,000 fans who packed La Maladiere stadium to watch the team's first practice session since the victory over the Turks.
There are more than 170,000 Portuguese living in Switzerland, according to local authorities.
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Associated Press writer Karel Janicek in Seefeld, Austria, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-08-05 21:50 GMT+08:00