No party for Swiss and pacey Portugal overcomes curse of 2004. No party for Switzerland as a late, opportunist goal by striker Vaclav Sverkos enabled the Czech Republic to kick off their Euro 2008 campaign with a scarcely-deserved 1-0 win. The Swiss captain’s Alexander Frei appeared to be seriously injured and was settled in the 70th minute.
Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech (C) deflects the ball during the Euro 2008 Championships Group A football match against Switzerland at St. Jakob-Park stadium in Basel, Switzerland. (AFP/Boris Horvat)
Having cleared their lines from a corner, the advancing Swiss back four was caught out when the ball was knocked back over their heads, enabling substitute Sverkos to sprint clear before beating goalkeeper Diego Benaglio with the outside of his right boot from 12 yards.
Although, it appeared to be a fine piece of finishing, the goal gave a cruel blow for a Swiss side that was repeatedly frustrated by their opponents’ outstanding goalkeeper, Petr Cech.
The co-hosts, could have been easily ahead by the break if not for the Chelsea’s goalkeeper Cech.
Having blocked goalbound shots from Behrami and Gokhan Inler, the Chelsea goalkeeper came swiftly off his line to deny Frei at close range after the Swiss captain had been allowed to run on to Benaglio’s box-to-box punt.
Frei gave one more demonstration of why he has plundered 35 goals in 60 appearances for his country — a swerving drive from 30 yards that Cech could only beat away — before tragedy struck three minutes from the break.
Switzerland battled to the end but a bitterly frustrating evening was to be summed up when Vonlanthen’s follow-up crashed against the woodwork after Cech had parried Tranquillo Barnetta’s low shot from the edge of the area.
Portugal vs Turkey
Portugal avoided the same fate that befell them in 2004 when getting their Euro 2008 campaign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 win over Turkey here on Saturday.
Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles (2ndL) scores during their Euro 2008 Championships Group A football match at Geneva stadium in Geneva, Switzerland. Portugal won 2-0. Photo AFP
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side, beaten as hosts in their opener four years ago by Greece, the gatecrashers that would go on to deny them in the final itself, took the points in this Group A tie with a second half goal from Real Madrid defender Pepe.
Scolari was forced into a late change of plan when his intended starter in goal, Quim, fractured his hand in training, with Ricardo standing in for the out-of-commission Benfica keeper.
‘Big Phil’ deployed Nuno Gomes as a lone striker with Cristiano Ronaldo on the right wing against a Turkish side that was fielding the same 4-3-2-1 format.
Manchester United’s most prized asset was, surprise surprise, the first with a shot on goal.
Pepe headed in a corner past Volkan Demirel after quarter of an hour and ran half the pitch with his arms in the air in celebration only to have his Kodak moment ruined by the linesman’s flag – held aloft for offside.
With both sides in attacking mode the near 30,000 full house at the Stade de Geneve had plenty to keep them warm on a chilly summer’s night by Lake Leman, not least in the 30th minute when Ronaldo scythed his way through the Turkish defence only to scuff his shot.
Portugal next face the Czech Republic, 1-0 winners over Switzerland earlier, on Wednesday with Turkey up against co-hosts the Swiss on the same day.