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Swiss meet Czechs in opener
June 07, 2008 09:49 IST
Euro 2008 [Images] gets underway on Saturday with co-hosts Switzerland [Images] pitting their promising young team against an experienced Czech Republic side (21.30 IST keen to prove their best days are not behind them.
Koebi Kuhn's Swiss squad are one of the youngest at these finals but include several players who have already experienced two major tournaments.
"Our players have developed and ripened since the 2006 World Cup," captain Alex Frei told reporters at the team's base camp.
"I believe in the quality of the team and I know it is hungry for success. We want to write history and now have the chance to do so in our own country."
The former Czechoslovakia won Euro 1976 and recent successes for the side include an appearance in the 1996 final and a run to the 2004 semi-finals.
But the international retirements of Karel Poborsky and Pavel Nedved along with the loss through injury of captain Tomas Rosicky have raised doubts over the pedigree of this squad.
"I don't know why people would say we are not as good as we were before," midfielder David Jarolim told reporters at the team's training ground in Seefeld, Austria.
"We have qualified for the last three tournaments in a row. That shows how strong we are and we will prove it again at Euro 2008."
Neutral fans will hope to see plenty of goals with the Group A game bringing together two of the tournament's most prolific strikers.
Frei has scored 35 times in 59 matches for Switzerland while towering Czech forward Jan Koller boasts a record of 54 goals in 87 internationals.
Switzerland will struggle to contain the 2.02-metre tall Koller, particularly with regular central defender Patrick Mueller yet to prove his match fitness after missing the majority of the season through injury.
"We won't be man-marking Koller," said Swiss assistant coach Michel Pont. "Our team has coped with Zinedine Zidane [Images] (of France [Images]) and plenty of other great players in the past without assigning defenders to particular players.
"We won't start doing so now against the Czechs, not least because they have plenty of other attacking options."
Czech coach Karel Brueckner did not give any hints as to which of those options he would exercise but has faced repeated calls from the media to drop Milan Baros and play Koller alone up front.
Baros was Euro 2004's top scorer but has failed to find the net for his country since March 2007.
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008