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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep, 5, 2006

Scolari worried about Portugal player fitness

HELSINKI, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said on Tuesday that his main worry was the fitness of his players ahead of their opening Euro 2008 qualifying match.

The World Cup semi-finalists, who are clear favourites to win Group A, start their campaign on Wednesday away to Finland, who shocked Poland 3-1 in their first qualifier on Saturday.

'Our main problem is fitness,' Scolari told a news conference as he voiced concerns about the condition of his players following the close season.

Portugal are starting life without captain Luis Figo and striker Pauleta who retired from the international game after the World Cup finals in Germany.

'We are going to start a new area, with new players,' said 32-year-old defensive midfielder Costinha.

While most European leagues have just returned to action, the Finnish domestic season ends in the autumn.

However, Finland are likely to field a team who play abroad so they will be in a similar position to Portugal.

The Finns, with experienced campaigners like attacking midfielder Jari Litmanen and central defender Sami Hyypia, are hoping to qualify for their first finals in 2008.

'Finland also has a strong squad,' said Costinha. 'It will be a pretty difficult game.'

Portugal playmaker Deco said he was now 100 percent fit, having missed the 4-2 friendly defeat in Denmark on Saturday.

The Group A qualifier will be played at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium where Finland have not won a game since 2003.

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