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  :: News ::



 

Portugal performs, winning 2-0 over Turkey
2008-06-07

Portugal took an hour to turn possession into goals as it beat Turkey, 2-0, Saturday night in the opening game for both countries in Euro 2008.

Portugal, a losing finalist in the competition four years ago and a semifinalist in the World Cup in Germany in 2006, dominated the match but struggled to create clear-cut scoring opportunities.

It did not take the lead until Pepe burst forward from defense and chipped the ball coolly into the net in the 61st minute. It added a second goal when Raul Meireles scored with almost the last kick of the game.

The second goal lifted Portugal to the top of Group A on goal difference, ahead of the Czech Republic, which beat Switzerland, the host, 1-0, earlier in the evening.

Both teams started, essentially, with four defenders and only one central striker.

This is not inherently defensive. For Portugal, Boswinga and Paulo Ferreira, the two fullbacks, burst forward repeatedly. But the brisk forward drives often created only the illusion of attacking menace.

From the start, Portugal moved smoothly and pleasingly between the penalty areas. Deco and João Mutinho prompted neatly and inventively from midfield. Cristiano Ronaldo tormented Hakan Balta, the Turkish left back. As usual, Ronaldo rather blunted his own menace by tumbling whenever a Turk touched him. Officials seem to be growing immune to the reproachful, indignant spaniel eyes Ronaldo makes as he sits on the ground.

Portugal did put the ball in the net after a clever and complicated corner routine in the 15th minute. The goal was disallowed because the response of the Turkish defense was clever and simple. As the ball was played short to Deco, the Turkish defense charged off its line. When Deco's accurate cross landed on Pepe's head, he was offside. Poor Pepe didn't realise it until he'd run 60 meters to celebrate putting the ball in the goal.

A few minutes later, Deco freed Simão with a wonderful lofted diagonal pass across the width of the field. As the left winger surged toward the goal, he found little support inside. His shot from a narrow angle flew high.

Again and again, Portugal found space on the flanks, only to look up and see Nuno Gomes alone in the penalty area with three or four Turks. Nuno Gomes has been a diligent, though sometimes ill-tempered, servant of Portuguese soccer at all age groups over almost 20 years. But, with just 28 goals in 68 matches for his country, he has never been a particularly productive one.

Portugal was most dangerous when the ball wasn't moving. After 38 minutes, Ronaldo, so eager to win free kicks, showed why. He sent a shot swerving, skidding and skipping around the Turkish defensive wall. It bounced, and leapt, just in front of Volkan Demirel. The Turkish goalkeeper grasped desperately up and across, reaching the ball with the fabric on the end of his gloves, deflecting it onto a post.

The Turks started the second half with more attacking intent. It almost brought reward, and punishment, immediately. Simão, for some reason back in his own penalty area, clipped Nihat Kahveci on the calf. The theatricality of Nihat's fall, however, did not persuade Herbert Fandel to award a penalty.

Seconds later, Fandel also kept his whistle silent as Gokhan Zan booted Simão high in the air just outside the Turkish area. But the referee allowed Portugal the advantage. The ball broke to Nuno Gomes, relatively lightly attended near the penalty spot. He clipped the shot, his first of the game, against the foot of the post. It caromed away and Turkey survived.

With the Turkish defense stretched, Ronaldo found a seam on the left side of the penalty area and threaded a low shot across the goal and just past the post.

Often the big international tournaments are undermined by stamina sapping summer heat and humidity. But there was a refreshing chill in the Swiss evening air Saturday. Even so the Turks, who had chased so hard in the first half, began to close opponents down with a little less efficiency.

After 61 minutes, Portugal finally found a way to get an extra player into the penalty area, and it paid.

Pepe, a centerback, collected the ball near the halfway line, stepped round the first Turkish lunge, then accelerated past a second opponent. As a third Turk charged, Pepe flipped the ball to Nuno Gomes who had come to meet him, dragging a defender in his wake. Pepe kept running. When Nuno Gomes angled a return pass behind the defense, the centerback found himself alone in the opposing penalty area with just the ball and Demirel. This could not be a situation he encounters very often, but Pepe finished with a forward's aplomb. This time, his celebration was not interrupted.

This is not inherently defensive. For Portugal, Boswinga and Paulo Ferreira, the two fullbacks, burst forward repeatedly. But the brisk forward drives often created only the illusion of attacking menace.

From the start, Portugal moved smoothly and pleasingly between the penalty areas. Deco and João Mutinho prompted neatly and inventively from midfield. Cristiano Ronaldo tormented Hakan Balta, the Turkish left back. As usual, Ronaldo rather blunted his own menace by tumbling whenever a Turk touched him. Officials seem to be growing immune to the reproachful, indignant spaniel eyes Ronaldo makes as he sits on the ground.

Portugal did put the ball in the net after a clever and complicated corner routine in the 15th minute. The goal was disallowed because the response of the Turkish defense was clever and simple. As the ball was played short to Deco, the Turkish defense charged off its line. When Deco's accurate cross landed on Pepe's head, he was offside. Poor Pepe didn't realise it until he'd run 60 meters to celebrate putting the ball in the goal.

A few minutes later, Deco freed Simão with a wonderful lofted diagonal pass across the width of the field. As the left winger surged toward the goal, he found little support inside. His shot from a narrow angle flew high.

Again and again, Portugal found space on the flanks, only to look up and see Nuno Gomes alone in the penalty area with three or four Turks. Nuno Gomes has been a diligent, though sometimes ill-tempered, servant of Portuguese soccer at all age groups over almost 20 years. But, with just 28 goals in 68 matches for his country, he has never been a particularly productive one.

Portugal was most dangerous when the ball wasn't moving. After 38 minutes, Ronaldo, so eager to win free kicks, showed why. He sent a shot swerving, skidding and skipping around the Turkish defensive wall. It bounced, and leapt, just in front of Volkan Demirel. The Turkish goalkeeper grasped desperately up and across, reaching the ball with the fabric on the end of his gloves, deflecting it onto a post.

The Turks started the second half with more attacking intent. It almost brought reward, and punishment, immediately. Simão, for some reason back in his own penalty area, clipped Nihat Kahveci on the calf. The theatricality of Nihat's fall, however, did not persuade Herbert Fandel to award a penalty.

Seconds later, Fandel also kept his whistle silent as Gokhan Zan booted Simão high in the air just outside the Turkish area. But the referee allowed Portugal the advantage. The ball broke to Nuno Gomes, relatively lightly attended near the penalty spot. He clipped the shot, his first of the game, against the foot of the post. It caromed away and Turkey survived.

With the Turkish defense stretched, Ronaldo found a seam on the left side of the penalty area and threaded a low shot across the goal and just past the post.

Often the big international tournaments are undermined by stamina sapping summer heat and humidity. But there was a refreshing chill in the Swiss evening air Saturday. Even so the Turks, who had chased so hard in the first half, began to close opponents down with a little less efficiency.

After 61 minutes, Portugal finally found a way to get an extra player into the penalty area, and it paid.

Pepe, a centerback, collected the ball near the halfway line, stepped round the first Turkish lunge, then accelerated past a second opponent. As a third Turk charged, Pepe flipped the ball to Nuno Gomes who had come to meet him, dragging a defender in his wake. Pepe kept running. When Nuno Gomes angled a return pass behind the defense, the centerback found himself alone in the opposing penalty area with just the ball and Demirel. This could not be a situation he encounters very often, but Pepe finished with a forward's aplomb. This time, his celebration was not interrupted.

Source :: IHT.com

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