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Couceiro at ease in last-chance saloon

Published: Sunday 17 June 2007, 22.58CET
Coach José Couceiro is grateful Portugal have been given one final chance to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games with a play-off against Italy on Thursday.
by David Lemos
from Groningen
Published: Sunday 17 June 2007, 22.58CET

Couceiro at ease in last-chance saloon

Coach José Couceiro is grateful Portugal have been given one final chance to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games with a play-off against Italy on Thursday.

Portugal coach José Couceiro was relieved with the "last opportunity" his team have been given to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing after watching England's victory 2-0 against Serbia in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Nijmegen.

One more game
Couceiro's side therefore face a play-off match against Italy on Thursday at the same Goffert Stadion as England are not eligible for the Olympic football tournament and Couceiro told uefa.com: "We have one more game and it's still better than having nothing left to play for. We had always said that we wanted the Olympic Games qualification - although by getting to the semi-finals". Despite a 4-0 win against Israel on Saturday, Portugal finished third in Group A while their next opponents occupied the same position in Group B.

'More offensive'
"Italy are a great team," said Couceiro. "I have liked them in this tournament. They are a different, more offensive Italy than we are used to seeing. Against us, it will be 50-50." He nevertheless showed some concern about Portugal's poor record against Italy at U21 level, conceding: "We usually don't win." Indeed, the last three times the teams have met in the knockout stages of this competition - in 1994, 1996 and 2004 - Italy have won both the match and the U21 title. "We are still disappointed by our elimination," Couceiro admitted. "The name of our opponents will, I hope, be enough motivation for the players. Italy are in the same state of mind as us and that's why I think it will be 50-50."

Last updated: 19/06/07 21.56CET

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