Portuguese wary of collecting their cards

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The Independent Online
Portugal will try to join Croatia in the quarter-finals of Euro 96 by avoiding a heavy defeat against them in the closing match of Group D at Nottingham Forest's City Ground today.

It would seem an undemanding task given Croatia have already qualified for the last eight and are ready to rest several key players. However, Antonio Oliveira, the Portuguese coach, feels the fates are against his team.

The defender Paulinho Santos misses the game after collecting two yellow cards, and six other players have incurred one booking apiece - another would ban any of them from next Sunday's quarter-final.

Oliveira has accused referees of picking on his players. He said: "We have videotaped all games in the tournament so far and I can say there is a very wide difference in the criteria being used for the award of yellow cards to the Portugal national team than there is for others."

The coach also has an injury worry over the Barcelona midfielder Luis Figo, who turned an ankle in training and is having ice-pack treatment. Oliveira has other problems to contend with: he still has not found a striker who can provide the finishing touch to his team's intricate approach work.

Sporting Lisbon's Ricardo Sa Pinto has started both games but, despite a goal against Denmark, has not convinced. He was substituted against Turkey after a bad miss in the first half.

Oliveira was asked if he could be tempted to recall Porto's Domingos, the leading scorer in the Portuguese championship last season, but all he would say was: "Domingos will be play if the circumstances are suitable."

Davor Suker, the two-goal hero against Denmark last Sunday, is likely to be one of those rested by the Croat coach, Miroslav Blazevic, who is already without the defender Nikola Jerkan, the victim of a broken nose against Denmark. The striker Alen Boksic may return despite a throat infection which kept him out at Hillsborough.

Denmark, the holders, have only a slim chance of making the quarter-finals as they are third in the group, three points adrift of Portugal. The Danes must secure a convincing victory over Turkey at Hillsborough today and hope Croatia beat Portugal.

The Danes have injury worries over their captain, Michael Laudrup, the defender Thomas Helveg and the striker Mikkel Beck. One man likely to play his third game of the tournament is the Ipswich Town midfielder Claus Thomsen, who has called on his country's army of fans to make an impact. "They've been superb so far, just as we knew they would, and we would love to give them something to really shout about," he said.

"We watched the video of our defeat by Croatia, but if we sat down and talked about all the mistakes we made, we would be here until Christmas," Thomsen added. "We may have only a slight chance of going through, but we are professionals and we will try our best."

Homeward-bound Turkey, whose defensive midfielder Tolunay Kafkas is suspended, are likely to field the team which started against Portugal.

PROBABLE TEAMS: PORTUGAL (v Croatia, City Ground, today, 4.30): Vitor Baia (Porto); Secretario (Porto), Fernando Couto (Parma), Helder (Benfica), Dimas (Benfica), Folha (Porto), Paulo Sousa (Juventus), Rui Costa (Fiorentina), Figo (Barcelona), Sa Pinto (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Pinto (Benfica).

CROATIA: Ladic (Croatia Zagreb); Stimac (Derby County), Bilic (West Ham), Pavlicic (Hercules Alicante), Brajkovic (1860 Munich), Boban (Milan), Mladenovic (Gamba Osaka), Pamic (Osijek), Prosinecki (Barcelona), Vlaovic (Padova), Cvitanovic (Croatia Zagreb).

DENMARK (v Turkey, Hillsborough, today, 4.30): Schmeichel (Manchester United), Thomsen (Ipswich Town), J Hogh (Fenerbahce), Rieper (West Ham United), Helveg (Udinese), Schjonberg (Odense), B S Nielsen (Odense), Nielsen (Brondby), M Laudrup (Real Madrid), B Laudrup (Rangers), S Andersen (Aalborg).

TURKEY: Rustu (Fenerbahce), Recep (Besiktas), Alpay (Besiktas), Vedat (Karabukspor), Abdullah (Trabzonspor), Ogun (Trabzonspor), Tugay (Galatasaray), Sergen (Besiktas), Oguz (Fenerbahce), Hakan (Galatasaray), Saffet (Kocaelispor).

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