NEUCHATEL (Switzerland): Portugal and Turkey will begin the European football Championship trying to prove their worth.
While Portugal is hoping to repeat the successful campaigns of the last Euro tournament and the World Cup, Turkey is looking to show it is back in form after missing the two competitions.
Led by winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal wants another good showing this month to solidify its spot in the elite of European football. It is coming off a runner-up finish at Euro 2004 and a semifinal appearance in the 2006 World Cup.
But to stay on track, Portugal hopes to get off to a good start against the Turks on Saturday in Geneva in Group ‘A.’
“It’s always fundamental to win the first match,” Portugal midfielder Armando Petit said. “Not only because of the win, but because of the motivation that it gives to the players. It is a determinant for the rest of the tournament.”
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari twice faced Turkey when he led his native Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title.
Turkey coach Fatih Terim has been saying all along that he wants a good performance at the European competition to put Turkey back on the map in world football.
“We have not attended any tournament since 2002,” he said. “We are going to Switzerland to make the world remember us.”
Bayer Munich defender Hamit Altintop praised Portugal, but was as confident as his coach with Turkey’s chances.
Villarreal forward Nihat Kahveci said Turkey respects the Portuguese players, but is not afraid of them, and that focusing too much on Ronaldo could be dangerous.
“Portugal is not all about Ronaldo,” he said. “They have other very important players. I see them as a team. Ronaldo will not win a game on his own. He needs his friends’ help.”
The Portuguese are playing in the final phase of the European competition for the fifth time. It has a 10-4-5 record, and last year’s appearance in the championship match marked its best performance so far.
Turkey is in the European tournament for the third time and has a 1-1-5 record. Its best outing was when it lost to Portugal in the 2000 quarterfinals. It will be Portugal’s first major competition since Luis Figo and veteran striker Pauleta — the Nation’s all-time leading scorer — retired from the National team.
Co-host Switzerland will play the Czech Republic in Basel in the other Group ‘A’ match on Saturday. — AP