Portugal ready to justify billing
Having enjoyed a heroes' welcome when they arrived in Switzerland on Sunday, Portugal know the pressure is on to deliver when they tackle Turkey in their opening UEFA EURO 2008™ contest. "We haven't started EURO yet but it seems we're champions," said striker Hugo Almeida. "This support shows Portugal's strength so we have to give these people joy."
Around 10,000 expatriates were on hand to greet Luiz Felipe Scolari and his star-studded squad at their training base in Neuchatel, and it is from there that they will journey south for their first Group A fixture on Saturday. "In the opening game it's natural that the players will be nervous, especially as Turkey are not easy opponents," added the Werder Bremen forward. "If we win we can approach our subsequent matches in a calmer and more relaxed way."
The 24-year-old enjoyed an impressive season in the Bundesliga, registering eleven goals in 23 games, yet he expects to be providing back-up to the revitalised SL Benfica hitman Nuno Gomes as the 31-year-old prepares to lead the line in his third UEFA European Championship. "Nuno is a very experienced player who has given a lot to Portugal," said Hugo Almeida. "His know-how will be very important in these finals. My job is to do the best I can and take any opportunity when it arises."
Despite starting the final friendly against Georgia on Saturday, a 2-0 victory, central defender Pepe is another unsure of whether he will be in the first XI at the Stade de Genève. "We're a bit anxious, particularly me as it's my first finals, but we know what our responsibilities are," said the Real Madrid CF centre-back, who hopes to feature alongside Ricardo Carvalho. "Every player has to demonstrate his commitment and quality every day, there is still one place in the team for me, Fernando Meira or Bruno Alves."