‘Teams under immense pressure in first Euro 2008 game’June 7th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by IANS
Basel, June 7 (DPA) All 16 teams participating at the Euro tournament are under immense pressure to do well in their opening game, a fact that especially applies to host nations, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said. The Frenchman was addressing a news conference on the eve of Saturday tournament opener between co-hosts Switzerland and the Czech Republic in Basel.
“I have yet to see a host nation do well in their first match,” Wenger said at the launch of a so-called Castrol Performance Index (CPI).
“They are always under so much pressure in their first game and I can only suggest to them that they should go for a result, that is the most important thing.”
Wenger said he counted France amongst the favourites as they have unrivalled class in their squad with “a player on each position who plays for a top European club”.
He said that he expected Portugal to also be very strong, but did not expect that a new star would be born at the June 7-29 event in Switzerland and Austria.
“You expect players like Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) or Thierry Henry (France) to do well, but you could also have players like Germany’s Mario Gomez, France’s Hatem Ben Arfa or Luka Modric from Croatia coming to the fore.
“My tip for the player of the tournament, however, is Cesc Fabregas. I am pleased that in a time when power and strength is becoming more and more important, a player like Fabregas can compete because he has the skill,” said Wenger in praise of his Arsenal player from Spain.
Wenger said he was confident that France’s Patrick Vieira would be available for his side’s first game on Monday against Romania despite an injury scare.
“He is so important to the side that they would miss him terribly if he was not available. But I have heard that he has been training with the side and that he should be fine for their first game,” said Wenger.
The long-time Arsenal coach, who dismissed rumours that he had negotiated with Paris St Germain, said he was not averse to the idea of signing players for Arsenal at the tournament.
“I have brought my cheque book and if I fall in love with a player, anything can happen,” he said.
He criticised players for not having any loyalty towards clubs, saying: “I personally feel that in the modern game it is good that they can go anywhere, but I think they also have a responsibility towards a club to ensure that there is some stability.”
Former Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who will take over as Swiss coach at the end of the European championships, said he expected Bayern players Franck Ribery and Luca Toni to be outstanding.
“Toni is a phenomenon. If you watch him in training, you would hardly believe that he can play at the highest level. He needs so many chances, but in a game that is different. He is mentally so strong and he has a killer instinct,” Hitzfeld said of the Bundesliga season top scorer.
The CPI is to provide all the statistical background like speed of players and the distance covered during the match and Hitzfeld said such data was important.
“If, for instance, a defender is shown to run only eight kilometres in a game instead of the 11 or 12 that is expected, one would start asking questions.”
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