Saturday, June 07, 2008

Euro 2008 Diary: Day 1

Group A: Two games, three goals

  • Switzerland 0-1 Czech Republic
  • Portugal 2-0 Turkey

  • The opening game was simply dull and boring. The Czechs went with a 4-5-1 formation which meant that Jan Koller was left upfield on his own, with little support. The Swiss had some decent chances but the game never sparked into life. As a result, in the second half when the Swiss defense fell asleep, Václav Svěrkoš nicked a neat goal. The Swiss to their credit pushed forward for an equalizer and could have tied the game up but Johan Vonlanthen struck the cross-bar. In the end, the Czechs did enough to get the three points.

    Note: At half-time, Swiss captain Alexander Frei left the field with an injury and if his injury is serious indeed, then the Swiss will be left with no bite for their remaining two games.

    The Portugal - Turkey game started off predictably -- Portugal only played with one pure striker (Nuno Gomes) and that meant Portugal's attacks came from the flanks via the experienced Simão & Cristiano Ronaldo. A fast paced first half produced little in goal mouth action with the best chance being Ronaldo's free kick expertly saved by the Turkish goal-keeper, Volkan. Pepe's header was correctly ruled for offside in the first half for Portugal.

    Not much happened early in the second half even though Nuno Gomes hit the post after a nasty foul on Simão carved open the Turkish defense. However, just after the hour mark Pepe finished off a beautiful move by exchanging a pass with Nuno Gomes before Pepe's goal attempt was helped over Volkan by an on-rushing Emre. After that goal, the game went into a dull lull as Turkey could not muster any clear-cut chances. Portugal could have even had made it 2-0 but Nuno Gomes headed against the crossbar via a Ronaldo cross. Then Portugal's coach, Scolari, decided to remove their only striker Nuno Gomes to bring on another midfielder/winger in Nani, meaning the only goal-scoring threat would come from Ronaldo. But no such goal scoring threat came from Portugal as they watched the inability of the Turkish players to pick the right option in the final third of the field.

    But Ronaldo did play a part in Portugal's second goal of the night -- with time winding down and Turkey having pushed everyone forward, Ronaldo's run and pass to João Moutinho enabled João to pick out an onrushing Raul Meireles who calmly slotted the ball into an empty neat to seal a Portuguese victory. Prior to that goal, there was a nasty two foot lunge on Nani, another reminder of the game's ugly side.

    Overall, an average opening day. Portugal looked the best team of the bunch but their lack of strikers might cost them in the tournament. If a team wants to stop them, then all they have to do is cut off the supply line via the flanks and Portugal will be left with no creative options.

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