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Portugal eye the quick route

Fresh from their 2-0 win over Turkey, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari brings his troupe of Ronaldo and Co to confront the solid, if not exciting, Czech Republic team that defeated host team Switzerland 1-0. Diego Maradona with the match preview.
By Diego Maradona | None
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 11:18 PM IST

Fresh from their 2-0 win over Turkey, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari brings his troupe of Ronaldo and Co to confront the solid, if not exciting, Czech Republic team that defeated host team Switzerland 1-0.

With three points each, whoever wins this game will mathematically advance to the second round. There is no doubt whatsoever that Portugal is not only favored to advance to the second round but also to possibly win the European championship they lost in the final four years ago.

The Czech Republic would welcome a draw that would give them a chance to clinch the berth with a solid game against Turkey.

Look for Scolari to present the same formation that played in their opening game. Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho leads the green and red defense. With Italy’s Cannavaro injured, Carvalho is the best center half in the tournament. Interesting to note that at thirty he is also the fastest man on the Portuguese team, as if to dispel the notion that defenders are only big and strong. He is paired up with a new stopper, naturalized Brazilian

talent Pepe, who scored an impressive goal in the opener.

Ronaldo plays alternately on the left and right sides. That makes him impossible to mark. He starts with the ball from the offensive wings and accelerates towards the center cruising past the terrified defenders who bunch together as if looking for illusionary solace in greater numbers.

The ‘old wolf’, coach Karel Bruckner, is squeezing what he can from the Czech team that is long on experience and short on youth.

In the match against Switzerland, Peter Cech showed why he is considered with Buffon and Van der Sar the best goalie in the game. Their defence is solid but they are missing flair and experience in the midfield.

With Tomas Rosicky injured, the Czech team is struggling to find a replacement for the legendary Pavel Nedved, who has retired from international football. He was the main reason that the Czech Republic did so well for so many years and is irreplaceable.

Unless Peter Cech completes four or five miracles, it will be hard for the Czech Republic to contain the talented Portuguese. I am sure that coach Bruckner would go for a draw, bring his team closer to the quarterfinals.

The last time Turkey played Switzerland, in Istanbul, Turkey won 4-2, and Switzerland qualified for the World Cup with a 2-0 victory at home. It was more of a war with Alpay hitting Streller, Huggel kicking Odzilek, Grichting having his urinary tract perforated, Emre boxing everybody, Switzerland locked in their dressing room and Turkey banned from playing its next six games at home.

This game doesn’t bode that much better. Both teams lost the first game and both teams have to win this one. To add to Switzerland’s misery, their best player, Alexander Frei, is out of the European championship with damaged knee ligaments. The usually composed Swiss have greatly supported their coach and team so the crowd will be a factor but crowds do not play and what we saw of the Swiss was mostly physical. It will be a low scoring match. Since their hospitality and organization have been impeccable I would like Switzerland to win this match but a draw is the most likely result.

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