Turkey undaunted by Portugal's attacking stars

Turkey coach Fatih Terim praised Portugal for having the best attacking players at the European Championship on Friday.

updated: June 09, 2008 07:15 IST
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GENEVA, Switzerland:

Turkey coach Fatih Terim praised Portugal for having the best attacking players at the European Championship on Friday.

With Portugal boasting wingers of the caliber of Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao Sabrosa, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani, and led by Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Terim concedes his team faces a difficult task to stave off defeat in Saturday's Group A game at Stade de Geneve.

"Portugal has Europe's finest offensive players, with a coach which made Brazil the world champions," Terim said Friday. "We can start with a win or a defeat. None of them is the end of the world. And a win cannot be the key to qualifying on its own. The first match cannot decide how you will finish."

In the final warm-up matches before Euro 2008, Turkey often relied on its midfielders to quickly get the ball to forward Nihat Kahveci or winger Tuncay Sanli when near the opposing goal. That strategy will remain the same, Terim said, but with the flexibility to adapt if necessary.

"My players are training to be able to go with both Plan A and Plan B during the game," Terim said. "I think teams that are mature enough to change strategies during matches can be successful."

Turkey had a difficult qualifying campaign, including having to play three games at a neutral venue as part of sanction imposed by FIFA after on-field clashes with Switzerland's players in a World Cup qualifying match in 2005.

But that wasn't all. During the final phase of preparations for this month's tournament in Austria and Switzerland, the Turks have coped with a series of injuries to key players.

Promising right back Gokhan Gonul, whom Brazil great Zico described as Europe's Cafu in reference to the two-time World Cup winner, hurt his foot. Midfielders Hamit Altintop and Emre Belozoglu have also been struck down by injuries, and center back Servet Cetin missed Turkey's early training sessions at home and in Germany to an undisclosed injury.

Rustu Recber, who starred in goal as Turkey finished third at the 2002 World Cup, is likely to be replaced by Volkan Demirel. But Recber insisted Turkey isn't afraid of Portugal.

"Portugal is one of the most important teams of the tournament, but we are confident," he said. "It's not the names that is going to win the game tomorrow - it's the fight on the field."