Scolari's men too strong for Turkey
Pepe puts Portugal ahead
Losers on the opening day four years ago, Portugal made a sure-footed start to UEFA EURO 2008™ as second-half strikes from Pepe and substitute Raul Meireles secured all three points against Turkey at the Stade de Genève.
It was a deserved victory for Luiz Felipe Scolari's men who also rattled the woodwork twice through Nuno Gomes. For Turkey, by contrast, defeat here continues their unhappy sequence of results against not just Portugal but also teams coached by Scolari – his Brazil beat them twice at the 2002 FIFA World Cup – and makes Wednesday's Group A meeting with Switzerland a virtual eliminator.
Portugal entered the tournament seeking to continue their upwards trajectory in European finals: quarter-finals in 1996, semi-finals in 2000 and runners-up in 2004. And they made the early running here, with Bosingwa hitting the outside of the post with a low cross inside two minutes. After 42 goals this season for Manchester United FC, Cristiano Ronaldo, not surprisingly, found himself crowded by white shirts in the initial stages but his threat was evident from the game's first corner, delivered by Simão. Ronaldo appeared poised to strike only for Servet Çetin to produce a timely block. Portugal did get the ball in the net from another Simão corner in the 17th minute but Pepe's header was ruled out for offside.
At the other end, Nihat Kahveci saw a free-kick in a promising position trickle behind off the Portugal wall. Nihat was one of only two survivors of Turkey's 2002 World Cup team in their starting lineup alongside Emre Belözoğlu, and he and his fellow forwards – Kazım Kazım and Mevlüt Erdinç, both playing their first competitive internationals – had scant opportunities in a first period controlled by Portugal. With the half-hour approaching, Simão curled a free-kick narrowly over and moments later there was a collective holding of the breath as Ronaldo cut inside to escape the shackles of Hakan Balta and proceeded to weave his way between three white shirts. If the finish was lacking, Ronaldo then drew a fine save from Volkan with a low free-kick driven in from the left. Although the ball bounced in front of Volkan, he managed to get a fingertip to it and touch it on to the far post.
With João Moutinho also going close, it was no surprise Turkey coach Fatih Terim sought to tighten up his midfield for the second half, sending on Sabri Şarıoğlu. Yet Turkey were soon on the back foot once more. Simão dispossessed the dawdling Gökhan Zan and Nuno Gomes nipped in to fire the loose ball against the inside of the upright. After Gökhan, injured in that incident, limped off in place of Emre Asik, Portugal came again, Ronaldo shooting low at Volkan. The breakthrough finally came after 61 minutes. Pepe, carrying the ball forward with an assuredness not usually associated with centre-halves, played a one-two on the edge of the box with Nuno Gomes and burst through to finish past Volkan for his first international goal. Nuno Gomes nearly added a second soon after, only to see his header rebound off the crossbar. Turkey's hopes of snatching a late equaliser vanished with Tuncay's air shot before Meireles, also with his first Portugal goal, doubled up in added time, sliding the ball into an empty net after Moutinho's trickery had taken out Demirel.