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QUARTERFINAL 1: Portugal vs. England

Action at www.russiantvonline.com - QUARTERFINAL 1 LIVE!!!

Portugal vs. England

22:35 MSK
2:35 pm EST

Preview: A classic quarterfinal encounter
England vs. Portugal won't be short of classic encounters - Scolari vs. Eriksson; Figo vs. Beckham; Ronaldo vs. Rooney; 50,000 English fans against a nation mobilized to support the home team.

The first Euro 2004 quarterfinal presents an intriguing fight between teams that are different in style, but finely balanced in potential.

"This should be a great game," Portuguese captain Fernando Couto said Wednesday. "Two great teams, two great sets of supporters ... it's a pity we're playing them now, because we should both be in the final."

The first Euro 2004 quarterfinal presents an intriguing fight between teams that are different in style, but finely balanced in potential.

"This should be a great game," Portuguese captain Fernando Couto said Wednesday. "Two great teams, two great sets of supporters ... it's a pity we're playing them now, because we should both be in the final."

Both teams are hoping to be the first coached to a European Championship title by a foreigner.
Sweden's Sven-Goran Eriksson has added his cool, calculating soccer brain to England's traditional muscular strengths. Brazil's Luiz Felipe Scolari has brought passion and craft to Portugal's subtle skills.

Eriksson has a score to settle.

Two year's ago in another quarterfinal, Scolari's Brazil broke English hearts with a 2-1 win in Japan on its way to win a record fifth World Cup.

"He was on the other bench," said Eriksson. "I don't think it will affect things though. I like Scolari very much. He's a nice human being and of course a very good manager."

Scolari repaid the compliment, saying Eriksson had improved the English team since 2002. "They are much better than in the World Cup," Scolari told reporters.

The Brazilian said he'd likely make "two or three" tactical changes from Portugal's 1-0 victory over Spain on Sunday, but declined to reveal his hand.

"If I tell Eriksson what our plans are he'll use them better than me," joked "Big Phil."

England has another reason to seek revenge on the Portuguese.

In Euro 2000, the two teams produced a classic when a spectacular Luis Figo goal led a Portuguese fightback after England raced to a 2-0 lead. In the end, Portugal won 3-2 leaving David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and other England stars devastated.

Now Beckham and Figo are teammates at Real Madrid and the duel between two of the most graceful midfielders of their generation should be one of the highlights of the game.

"It's a great honor to play in the same game as Luis, and hopefully we'll come out on top," said Beckham.

The battle between Madrid's "galacticos" has been overshadowed in both countries media by the prospect of a showdown between two of the brightest new stars at the tournament.

Britain's press has been thrown into a frenzy by the performance of 18-year-old striker Wayne Rooney, whose four goals so far in the tournament have led even the usually understated Eriksson to compare him to Pele.

Headlines after his two-goals in England's 4-2 win over Croatia Monday heaped on the hyperbole. "Heroo!" said The Mirror. "Rooney Rampage" added the Daily Star. "Inspired, untouchable ... is he unbeatable?" pondered the Times.

Portuguese papers have been less-demonstrative, but still full of praise for Cristiano Ronaldo, 19, who has dazzled on the wing in Portugal's three games, tormenting opponents with his fancy footwork and earning a new nickname: "The Can Opener." That comes from the way he opened up the Spanish defense in Sunday's 1-0 victory.

Ronaldo - who joined Manchester United last season - insisted Portugal against England would be much more that a personal duel between himself and Rooney.

"I don't want to pick out any one player," he said Tuesday. "Rooney is a great player, we have to respect him, like we have to respect Beckham, Owen and the others. ... I don't want to get into personal fights."

While Portugal's defense seeks to contain Rooney and Owen, Ronaldo will be up against his Manchester United teammate Gary Neville at the other end.

"He won't give me one single second's rest for 90 minutes," said Neville. "He's a special talent ... this is no show pony."

Sector-by-sector the two teams look evenly matched.

England goalie David James may inspire more confidence than Portugal's Ricardo, but the English defense weakened by suspension and injury looks less strong than the youthful Portuguese backs that include FC Porto's Champions' League winners Ricardo Carvalho and Nuno Valente.

In midfield, England will have to contain Figo and Ronaldo marauding down the flanks, while mercurial, Brazilian-born Deco will confront the rampant Frank Lampard - who he may soon be playing alongside at Chelsea.

Battling Paul Scholes will have to contend with the Porto pair Nuno Maniche and Costinha.

Upfront, England appears to have the advantage.

If Rooney keeps his goal touch and his temper he could prove the difference supported by Owen. At the other end Portugal's Nuno Gomes will likely start as the sole striker in place of the suspended and off-form Pedro Pauleta.

After Portugal lost its opening game to Greece, and England went down to France, both teams have grown in confidence with players from each side prediction that the winner could go all the way.

"If we get the right result Thursday night, that will give us the springboard to reach the final," said England midfielder Steven Gerrard. "There's a feeling that this year could be ours."

"This could be the most difficult game or us," said Couto. "If we get past this, it should be easier in the semifinals."

Probable lineups:

Portugal: Ricardo; Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Nuno Valente, Miguel; Luis Figo, Costinha, Deco, Nuno Maniche, Cristiano Ronaldo; Nuno Gomes.

England: David James; Gary Neville, Sol Campbell, John Terry, Ashley Cole; David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes; Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney.

Referee: Urs Meier, Switzerland.


Posted on Jun 24, 04 | 9:46 am

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