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...3...2...1...0...Kick off!

sports Updated: Jun 07, 2008 11:39 IST
Rex Gowar
Rex Gowar
Reuters
...3...2...1...0...Kick off!

Another two-goal winning performance from striker Nuno Gomes against Turkey would suit Portugal fine in their Euro 2008 opener on Saturday.

Nuno Gomes, who is expected to lead the line in the Group A game in Geneva, struck twice to give Portugal a 2-0 win over the Turks when they last met, in the Euro 2000 quarter-finals.

The result had other ramifications because coach Fatih Terim, now in charge of Turkey but then about to join Fiorentina, signed the Portuguese striker for the Italian team.

The two, who have a strong mutual respect for each other, meet again but on opposite sides as Portugal look to win a trophy they have edged ever closer to over the last 12 years.

Portugal, quarter-finalists in England in 1996, reached the 2000 semi-finals with that win over Turkey, and then the final when they hosted the tournament four years ago, only to become the victims of giant-killers Greece.

With Cristiano Ronaldo, then a raw if very talented teenager but now arguably Europe's top player, the Portuguese hope to finally lift their first major trophy.

"Like all of us, Ronaldo will defend Portugal up to the last minute of the last game. He knows his importance to the team," defender Fernando Meira told a news conference on Thursday.

First, they must make a better start than in 2004 on home soil when they were upset in their opening match -- an ominous earlier defeat by the Greeks.

"We have to make a winning start although I don't agree with those who believe that whichever team wins this match will be practically in the quarter-finals," said goalkeeper Ricardo.

All fit
Standing in Portugal's way is Terim, whose high rating outside his country took him from Fiorentina to AC Milan, and his strongly committed Turkish team.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has a fit squad after the minor scare when Ronaldo had to put ice on a knock on his right ankle during training on Monday, the squad's first day in Switzerland.

Midfielder Deco, also expected to play, did light training apart from the rest of the squad on Thursday for muscle toning purposes, team doctor Henrique Jones told reporters.

"However, I can guarantee he will be 100 percent for the first game against Turkey," he said.

The Turks, making their first appearance at a major tournament since finishing third at the 2002 World Cup, are also injury free going into the match.

Midfielder Hamit Altintop, who was out for two months after breaking a metatarsal bone in a friendly against Belarus in March, has declared himself fit despite suffering a muscle problem in training last week.