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Czechs Spoil Hosts Switzerland's Euro 2008 Opening Party

A goal 19 minutes from time from substitute Vaclav Sverkos sealed a 1-0 win for the Czech Republic in the opening game of Euro 2008 against co-hosts Switzerland.

Czech Republic's Vaclav Sverkos reacts after scoring the opening goal during the group A match between Switzerland and Czech Republic in Basel, Switzerland, Saturday, June 7, 2008

Czech Republic's Vaclav Sverkos wins it for his country against the Swiss

To compound Switzerland's misery, team captain Alexander Frei hobbled off in tears shortly before half-time after sustaining ligament damage to his left knee.

Switzerland enjoyed the majority of possession but fell behind against the run of play when Sverkos, who replaced the ineffective Jan Koller, remained onside as the Swiss defense pushed out after a corner and calmly slotted the ball home.

It was a fine piece of finishing but a painfully cruel blow for a Swiss side that was repeatedly frustrated by their opponents' outstanding goalkeeper, Petr Cech, and the hosts were denied an equalizer when substitute Johan Venlanthen's shot came back off the post.

The fact that Jakob Kuhn's squad had not played a competitive match in nearly two years was belied by a high-tempo start which might have yielded a goal after barely two minutes, when Frei's shot slid narrowly wide of Cech's right-hand post with the goalkeeper struggling to cover.

Swiss enjoy lion's share of possession and chances

Switzerland's Stephan Lichtsteiner, left, and Valon Behrami, right, challenge for the ball with Czech Republic's Marek Jankulovski

The Swiss gave a good account of themselves

That set the tone for a first-half in which a combination of energetic pressing by the Swiss and the penetration of Lazio's Valon Behrami down the right flank restricted the Czechs to a handful of counter-attacks, their only moment of menace coming from David Jarolim's deflected cross which almost caught out Benaglio in the 13th minute.

The co-hosts, in contrast, might easily have been ahead by the break but for the habitual efficiency of Cech.

Having blocked goalbound shots from Behrami and Gokhan Inler, the Chelsea goalkeeper came swiftly off his line to deny Frei at close range after the Swiss captain had been allowed to run on to Benaglio's box-to-box punt.

Frei was to provide one more demonstration of why he has plundered 35 goals in 60 appearances for his country -- a swerving drive from 30 yards that Cech could only beat away -- before tragedy struck three minutes from the break.

Frei's injury silences boisterous crowd

Switzerland's team captain Alexander Frei, right, is led off the field after being injured

Frei's injury was not as bad as first thought - but bad enough

As he contested a 50-50 ball with Czech right-back Zdenek Grygera, the Swiss captain's left knee appeared to lock against his opponent's leg and he slumped to the turf in agony.

Minutes later he was limping from the pitch in tears, the hush that had descended on the St-Jakob Park stadium telling its own story about the implications for the co-hosts for the rest of the tournament.

The inevitable substitution was delayed until after the interval, when Frei's replacement, the veteran Hakan Yakin, had an immediate impact, drawing Tomas Galasek into a trip on the edge of the area and then curling the resulting free-kick inches over.

Nearly an hour had elapsed before the Czechs finally generated their first clear chance, Libor Sionko glancing Marek Jankulovski's free-kick wide after the inswinging delivery had found him unmarked six yards out.

Co-hosts continue to press but to no effect

Switzerland's Philippe Senderos, rear left, and Czech Republic's Jan Koller

Switzerland fought hard but without reward

Switzerland responded by carving out an equally gilt-edged opportunity of their own, Hakan planting his header wide from eight yards after a fine cross from overlapping right-back Stephan Lichsteiner.

The cost of that miss was to become apparent minutes later when Sverkos, a second-half substitute for the ineffective Jan Koller, fired the Czechs into the lead.

Switzerland battled to the end but a bitterly frustrating evening was to be summed up when Vonlanthen's follow-up crashed against the woodwork after Cech had parried Tranquillo Barnetta's low shot from the edge of the area.

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