XT Post Number King
Teams: INTER & Tottenham Hotspur
Group A, 7/6/08 (17.00 UK)
Switzerland - Czech Republic
Euro 2008 will finally kick off on Saturday as co-hosts Switzerland take on the dangerous Czech Republic at St Jakob Park in Basel. The home side will undoubtedly want to begin their campaign with a victory, but their opponents are a force to be respected after winning their qualification group ahead of Germany. Italian referee Roberto Rosetti will take charge.
The Czechs, who reached the semi-finals four years ago, are a dark horse for a tournament that will provide the last chance at glory for a host of their most recognisable figures. Boss Karel Bruckner will step down at the end of the competition, along with the likes of Jan Koller and Tomas Galasek.
Switzerland, on paper at least, seem one of the weakest hosts in the history of the competition. But they proved at the World Cup that they are a tough side to beat and Marek Jankulovski expects a battle at the weekend. “They’ll be able to count on great support as they are playing at home,” said the Milan left-back. “In fact, Group A as a whole is very balanced as Portugal are one of the favourites and Turkey often do well.”
Swiss boss Jakob Kuhn’s pre-match plans were boosted with the news that Tranquillo Barnetta is expected to declare himself fit for the game after shrugging off an ankle problem, but Patrick Muller is unlikely to be available. The defender, once briefly signed by Juventus, missed all of last season at Lyon with a knee injury.
A few familiar faces should be visible in the Czech side, even if Jankulovksi and Tomas Ujfalusi have not been at their best physically over the last few weeks. There is no Pavel Nedved though after the Juve ace wasn’t tempted out of international retirement for one final fling in the twilight of his career.
Bruckner – who will be without virus-hit defender Zdenek Pospech and was unable to include injured starlet Tomas Rosicky in his tournament party – is, like Jankulovksi, expecting a challenge to qualify for the last eight. “Portugal and Turkey are good, but we shouldn’t underestimate Switzerland,” he warned. “Nothing will be decided until the very last game.”
The two nations – since the Czech Republic’s independence – have only met three times so far, with the Swiss winning one and losing the other two. And with nine goals being scored in those ties, we may be in for a high scoring opening game rather than a cagey, dour draw.
Key clash: Alexander Frei v Petr Cech
If Switzerland are to start their tournament with a morale-boosting win they will need veteran striker Alexander Frei to be in his best form. The Borussia Dortmund man has been restricted to just a handful of appearances in the Bundesliga this season. Will that leave him ring rusty or pumped up for action? He will need to find a way past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech – and that is no easy task. The lofty net-minder is one of the world’s best and conceded just four goals in 10 qualifying appearances.
The Czech Republic could be tough to break down with a defence made in Serie A. Zdenek Grygera of Juventus, Lazio’s David Rozenhal and Milan left-back Marek Jankulovksi are peninsula regulars, while Tomas Ujfalusi has just ended his Fiorentina adventure. Switzerland could potentially line-up with three Serie A based players in the shape of Valon Behrami, Gokhan Inler and Reto Ziegler.
Did you know…
The host nation doesn’t always have the best of starts at European Championship Finals. Portugal were beaten 2-1 by Greece in the Euro 2004 opener, while England were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland at Euro ’96, Sweden tied 1-1 with France at Euro ’92, West Germany drew 1-1 at Euro ’88 against Italy and the Azzurri were shut-out by Belgium at Euro ‘80. Since the introduction of the group stages only France’s 1-0 win over Denmark at Euro ’84, Belgium’s 2-1 triumph against Sweden at Euro 2000 and Holland’s 1-0 against Czech Republic at the same event have seen the hosts win their tournament opener.
Swiss midfielder Benjamin Huggel, plus strikers Eren Derdiyok and Mario Streller will feel comfortable in the St Jakob Park Stadium as it is where their club side Basel play.
Johan Vonlanthen is the youngest ever scorer in the Finals of a European Championship. The Swiss starlet was 18 years and 140 days old when he scored in the June 2004 3-1 loss to France.
Switzerland (probable): To follow…
Czech Republic (probable): To follow…
Ref: Rosetti (Ita)
My heart = INTER...No Matter Win or Lose...
Zanetti : I still remember my first day at Inter. I arrived with a plastic bag with my boots inside and I crossed the crowd of fans who were asking who I was. That's where it all started.....