Euro 2008 – Czechs edge Swiss in opener
A second-half goal from Vaclav Sverkos earned the Czech Republic a 1-0 victory against co-hosts Switzerland in the opening game of Euro 2008 at the St Jakob-Park stadium in Basel.
Switzerland enjoyed the better of the chances throughout the game, with captain Alexander Frei going close three times in the first half before leaving the pitch in tears after picking up a knee injury that looks to have ruled him out for the rest of the tournament.
They were eventually undone by substitute Sverkos’s strike with 20 minutes of the game remaining, moments after Frei’s replacement Hakan Yakin had put a free header wide from 10 yards at the other end.
Johan Volanthen wasted Switzerland’s best chance to equalise when he fired against the woodwork from close range, and the Czechs held firm to secure an important early win.
The game began at a frenetic pace in front of a raucous crowd, and Frei saw a low right-footed effort from 25 yards whistle just wide of the left-hand post with less than two minutes on the clock.
The Czechs looked to make use of the height of giant striker Jan Koller with a series of crosses from promising wide positions, but Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was rarely troubled as the ‘home’ side went on the offensive.
Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler tested Petr Cech‘s concentration with a couple of swerving efforts that demonstrated the much-criticised lightness of the balls being used at the tournament, before the Chelsea goalkeeper was forced to race from his line to save at the feet of Frei.
Frei recently became his country’s all-time leading scorer and he stang Cech’s palms with a fierce effort from 25 yards before being forced to retire with a knee injury after being caught by Czech defender Zdenek Grygera shortly before half-time.
Switzerland continued to press after the break, with Yakin bending a free-kick over the crossbar and then directing a header wide of Cech’s left-hand upright when he should have hit the target.
And less than five minutes later the Czechs went ahead, when Sverkos – a surprise second-half replacement for Koller – latched onto a header into the Swiss box before guiding the ball past Benaglio with the outside of his right foot.
Kobi Kuhn’s men responded by flooding forward, and with 10 minutes to play they should have equalised when Vonlanthen fired against the crossbar from eight yards after Cech had turned away a low effort from Tranquillo Barnetta.
Switzerland had a strong penalty shout turned down deep into injury time when Tomas Ujfalusi appeared to use his arm to block a flick from substitute Eren Derdiyok, meaning the Swiss were left to reflect on the missed opportunities that mean they are still looking for their first ever win at the European Championships.