Goalkeeper Ricardo said Portugal plan to defeat Azerbaijan on Saturday both to "bring great joy" to suspended coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and to keep alive their UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying hopes.
The FIFA World Cup semi-finalists are third in Group A, two points behind Finland and four adrift of leaders Poland with a game in hand on both their rivals, going into tricky-looking assignments in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Their chances of securing the required maximum points have taken a blow with Scolari receiving a three-month suspension following incidents in September's home draw with Serbia, yet the squad remain confident that the Brazilian's absence will not be sorely felt.
"We want to win this game and to cheer up our coach," said Real Bétis Balompié keeper Ricardo. "It will be a bit different for us as we won't have the boss with us on the bench, but this setback can make us even more united. We're playing for qualification, but also for someone who's already given us many memorable moments. Scolari and 'Murtosa' [assistant coach Flávio Teixeira] have a great relationship and the team know 'Murtosa' very well so there's no problem."
Portugal arrived in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, on Tuesday and are slowly acclimatising to the four-hour time difference and their new surroundings. Sporting Clube de Portugal midfielder João Moutinho said: "We know it's a long trip and we're feeling some fatigue. The pitch is not in the best condition but we're aware of the difficulties and are focused on winning the game." After Baku, the Portuguese road show will move further east to Kazakhstan for next Wednesday's tie in Almaty.
Moutinho is not expected to make the starting XI this weekend, although club-mate Miguel Veloso is being tipped to win his first cap in place of the injured Petit. Impressive in Portugal's UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign in June, Veloso said: "I only care that Portugal beat Azerbaijan." If he plays, all the better.
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