The long wait will be over when UEFA EURO 2008™ opens in Basel on 7 June with the Group A encounter between the Czech Republic and tournament co-hosts Switzerland.
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The long wait will be over when UEFA EURO 2008™ opens in Basel on 7 June with the Group A encounter between the Czech Republic and tournament co-hosts Switzerland at St. Jakob-Park.
• Jakob Kuhn's Switzerland side will be desperate for a positive start to 'their' tournament when they raise the curtain on the 31-match, 23-day football festival, yet they face daunting opposition in a Czech Republic side who reached the semi-finals at UEFA EURO 2004™ and finished as one of the seven group winners in qualifying for this event.
• Switzerland qualified automatically for the finals as co-hosts. This is their third finals appearance and they will be hoping it proves third time lucky after two previous first-round exits in 1996 and 2004, on both occasions following up an opening draw with two defeats.
• Karel Brückner's Czech Republic side qualified as winners of Group D, where they finished two points clear of Germany having won nine and lost just one of 12 qualifying games. They sealed their finals place in memorable fashion on 17 October 2007, beating Germany 3-0 in Munich through goals from Libor Sionko, Marek Matějovský and Jaroslav Plašil.
• This is the Czechs' fourth successive appearance in the UEFA European Championship finals, their best performance to date coming in 1996 when they finished runners-up to Germany following a 2-1 final defeat at Wembley Stadium. After a first-round exit in 2000, the Czechs reached the last four in 2004, where they succumbed 1-0 to eventual winners Greece.
• As part of the former state of Czechoslovakia, Czech football celebrated winning the European crown in 1976. Czechoslovakia defeated West Germany in the final that year, Antonín Panenka's spot-kick securing a 5-3 shoot-out triumph following a 2-2 draw in Belgrade.
• Switzerland reached the Round of 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Kuhn's men won their group – drawing with France and beating Togo and Korea Republic – but then went down to Ukraine in a penalty shoot-out in which they failed to score, following a goalless draw. That stalemate on 26 June 2006, which marked their most recent competitive appearance, meant they exited the finals without conceding a goal.
• The Czech Republic had a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2006, falling at the group stage after the promise of an opening win against the United States vanished with defeats by Ghana and Italy.
• Switzerland have faced the Czech Republic three times before, with the Swiss winning their first contest in Zurich 3-0 in April 1994. The Czechs then recorded a 2-1 victory in Basel in June 1996 before prevailing 3-0 in their most recent meeting in Drnovice on 18 August 1999. Current Czech international Jan Koller broke the deadlock, before a Stefan Wolf own goal and Miroslav Baranek effort completed the scoring.
• The teams for that 1999 fixture were:
Czech Republic: Ladislav Maier, Marek Nikl, Jan Suchopárek, Pavel Nedvěd (Pavel Horváth), Karel Rada, Radek Slončík (Tomáš Galásek), Jiří Němec (Roman Týce), Karel Poborský (Miroslav Baranek), Pavel Kuka (René Wagner), Jan Koller (Vratislav Lokvenc), Radek Bejbl.
Switzerland: Stefan Huber (Andreas Hilfiker), Sebastien Jeanneret (Marco Zwyssig), Régis Rothenbühler (Thomas Wyss), Stefan Wolf, Marc Hodel, Johann Vogel (Boris Smiljanic), Fabio Celestini, Raphael Wicky, Stéphane Chapuisat (Alexandre Rey), Ciriaco Sforza, Alexandre Comisetti (Sascha Müller).
• Switzerland had an inferior record against Czechoslovakia, their 27 matches played between 1924 and 1991 producing seven wins, six draws and 14 defeats.
• The only match between Switzerland and Czechoslavakia at a major tournament was the 1934 World Cup quarter-final between the sides, which Czechoslovakia won 3-2.
• This Group A match pits several club colleagues against each other, with Christoph Spycher (SUI) and Martin Fenin (CZE) playing together at Eintracht Frankfurt. Depending on his recovery from injury, Switzerland defender Patrick Müller could face his former Olympique Lyonnais team-mate Milan Baroš in the Czech attack.
• Philipp Degen (SUI) and Jan Koller (CZE) played together at BV Borussia Dortmund, while Alexander Frei (SUI) and Petr Čech (CZE) were colleagues at Stade Rennais FC.
• Philippe Senderos was part of the Arsenal FC team that beat AC Sparta Praha 3-0 in London in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League on 29 August 2007. Czech Republic duo Michal Kadlec and Zdenĕk Pospĕch all featured on the losing side.
• Czech pair Tomáš Galásek and Jan Polák were in the 1. FC Nürnberg team that got the better of Swiss international Ludovic Magnin's VfB Stuttgart side with a 3-2 victory in the 2007 German Cup final.
• Switzerland's Johan Vonlanthen holds the record for being the youngest goalscorer at a UEFA European Championship final tournament. He was 18 years and 141 days old when he found the net in Switzerland's 3-1 defeat by France on 21 June 2004.
• The host team have won the opening match only twice in six attempts since the tradition was established in 1984. France (1984) and Belgium (2000) both recorded victories, with three draws and one defeat for the hosts. That loss came in 2004 when Portugal went down 2-1 to Greece.
• Only Spain (1964), Italy (1968 and France (1984) have claimed the European title as hosts.
• This is the 13th edition of the UEFA European Championship and the eighth edition that features a final tournament with a group phase.