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Portugal, Czech Republic meet with eye on European Championship quarterfinals

Portugal, Czech Republic meet with eye on European Championship quarterfinals

Portugal will be playing the ball on the ground when it comes up against the taller Czech Republic team at the European Championship on Wednesday.
"Their team's average height is 1.84 meters (6 foot), we have much shorter players," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Tuesday. "We will need the technical quality of our athletes. They will have to move around to try to make it harder for the Czechs to play their usual style."
Portugal is fresh off a convincing 2-0 victory over Turkey, while the Czechs had a difficult 1-0 win over co-host Switzerland last Saturday. The winner at Stade de Geneve will move into good position to earn a second-round berth from Group A, which Portugal leads on goal difference.
"We can't think about the first match anymore," Scolari said. "If we are not focused on the second, we run the risk of having to play just to stay alive in the last one. It's not worth it."
Defender Ricardo Carvalho said the Portuguese team have a strategy for the tall Czechs, especially the 2.01-meter (6-foot-7) striker Jan Koller.
"(Koller) is very strong," Carvalho said. "It's going to be very difficult for me and for (defender) Pepe. But we have other characteristics. He may be taller, but we are faster."
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.
If Switzerland and Turkey draw their match in Basel, the winner of the Portugal-Czech Republic match will automatically advance.
"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.
"I believe that we'll play better than against Switzerland and that we'll win the match," Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi said. "(The Portuguese) are most dangerous up front. We're preparing for them and I hope that we won't allow them to score."
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.
Bruckner said Tuesday that some changes in the lineup are likely, but didn't elaborate.
"We don't have such a strong attack as the Portuguese, but that doesn't mean that we're weaker than them," he said. "The Portuguese are the favorites of the group. But there's no favorite for tomorrow's (Wednesday's) match."
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.
Scolari, who led Portugal to the semifinals in Germany, is set to use the same starting 11 from the opener against the Turks.
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," Portugal midfielder Joao 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 nearly 200,000 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 : 2021-04-21 17:02 GMT+08:00