Italy shreds Turkey at Euro 2008

Morris Dalla Costa, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

GENEVA--It took a while for the orchestra to tune up but when it did, it played a mighty fine tune. Portugal did nothing to dispel the notion that they are one of the favoured teams in Euro 2008 yesterday when they shredded Turkey 2-0.

It was never a question of when but how Portugal would do Turkey in. They had them on the rack the entire game. With the constant chanting of thousands of scarf-waving Portuguese competing with the just as loud Turkish contingent, the Portuguese team performed their own tap dance to the rhythm.

Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nuno Gomes provided the fancy work up front and opened up the Turkish defence with stinging through balls and well-orchestrated through balls.

But it didn't look like it would do much good.

The Turks were tough nuts to crack.

But crack they did.

All the wonderful work finally paid off.

In the 60th minute Pepe worked a perfect wall pass with Gomes. Pepe came up from his position at the back, gave the ball to Gomes at the edge of the 18-yard box and got it back immediately.

He sliced through the opening and even though he was pressured managed to force the ball over Turkish netminder Volkan Demirel into the net.

It was a just reward for the Portuguese who had turned the Turkish defence inside out several times. The encore to this performance came almost on the final whistle. It was Ronaldo who hit the first note, starting a run at midfield. He found Joao Moutinho who controlled the ball with a fine spinning move. The tough part was over.

Demirel had already come out of the net and Moutinho slipped the ball to Raul Merieles, who had come on as a substitute.

Like the final clash of the cymbal, he pushed the ball into the empty net. Great skill and something we've all come to expect from Portugal. "It was a game we needed a lot of patience," Ronaldo said. "But we deserved to win. We created a lot of chances and scored two great goals."

A fine performance but not worthy of a standing ovation just yet.

There is warning in all this though. While Portugal had control of this game and probably deserved to score a few more goals hitting three posts, but they weren't without fault.

Turkey showed the finesse of a bull but they gave Portugal defence trouble with high balls. Turkey was never going to score off the ground but there will be better teams for the Portuguese in days to come who will take advantage of Portuguese uncertainty in the air.

As it was, Turkey only managed six shots at net and one on goal. "Portugal is the best team in this group," said Turkish midfielder Kazim Kazim. "They didn't let us play. They kept the ball from us."

It was a nervous game for the Portuguese. Their camp has been under tremendous pressure as the Ronaldo-to-Real Madrid saga continues.

But there was no sign of any distractions on the pitch. The Portuguese were on form. It was a typical first half for a first game of a big tournament. Both teams needed to find their legs. Neither team looked particularly sharp although all the good chances fell to Portugal.

The 0-0 halftime score suited Turkey very well. Turkey was determined to keep Ronaldo to the outside and they were successful initially. Hakan Balta controlled Ronaldo for the first 20 minutes. Then Ronaldo moved all the way across the field and was far more successful.

Everytime he touched the ball, there was an intake of breath as everyone in the stadium expected him to perform miracles.

Miracles were hard to come by on this night for the miracle maker but he never stopped trying to perform one. But he and his team did more than enough to impress and sound a warning that their style of Latin beat will be heard loud and clear before the tournament is over.


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