Portugal moving on

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

GENEVA -- There is a deadliness to quick strike offensive soccer.

You can control your opponent for most of the game, but turn your back for a minute and the ball is in the back of the net.

The Portuguese are one of the best in the world at finishing off their opponents in that fashion. They put together another entertaining, fruitful game by beating a tough Czech Republic team 3-1 yesterday at Euro 2008.

The Portuguese rebounded from an average first half to win their second game of the tournament. The win, coupled with Turkey's last-gasp 2-1 victory over Switzerland, assures the Portuguese of a spot in the second round.

"As far as physical conditioning, this team is very good," said Portuguese coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. "It's the best physically prepared team I've had."

It's also one of the most talented.

Never give this team time or space or it will sting you.

All three Portuguese goals, scored by Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma, came off fast moves with Deco and Ronaldo playing intricate roles in all three of them.

The most important was the winner that came in the 63rd minute.

It took some of the legs away from the Czechs and it happened in the blink of an eye.

Deco found himself with the ball down the right side of the field. After a short run, he knifed a pass square along the penalty area that found Ronaldo at the end of it.

He never stopped the ball, firing the shot on the fly and beating Czech goalie Petr Cech with a low shot.

He had no more than a space of five metres and more than half the Portuguese team around him, but he still found the net with great power.

It was a deadly strike.

"I told them (at the half) to touch the ball only once and move it," Scolari said. "That's the way we play."

They certainly took it to heart.

Scolari said Portugal wasn't running on all cylinders in the first half. But keeping them quiet for 90 minutes is a different story entirely.

Czech and Portuguese fans made for a tremendous atmosphere.

Portugal took the lead after eight minutes.

As usual, it didn't look like much was going to happen on the play until Deco suddenly gave the ball to Ronaldo who performed a fancy quick-step to get open. Czech goalie Petr Cech had to make a leg save, but the ball bounced off defender Marek Jankulovski to Deco. Cech dove at Deco's feet to make another save, but Deco forced the rebound into the net.

The Czechs tied it nine minutes later though when Libor Sionko, their best player, got his head to a corner kick and powered it into the net past Portuguese 'keeper Ricardo. The rest of the half was a tough stretch for Portugal.

The Czechs looked much better than against the Swiss, a game they won 1-0. But while Czechs are tougher than nails, they have problems finishing.

They did put Portugal under pressure enough times to show future teams it can be done, especially on set pieces and high balls.

"We have some trouble at that point. It wasn't easy," Scolari said.

He was right. The Czechs almost tied it 2-2, but Sionko just put a header over the bar.

Scolari took time to acknowledge Deco, who he felt was outstanding.

"Deco is in good shape right now," he said. "He takes some risks which I like and there aren't many players like him."

It was Deco who created the third goal a minute into injury time. He took a free kick before the Czechs were ready, sending Ronaldo away 50 yards downfield. Ronaldo drew Cech to him and slipped the ball to Quaresma, putting an exclamation mark to the end of a fine day's work.


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