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Portugal has all chances to win Euro-2008 Championship

Portugal needed only two matches to secure a quarterfinal birth and establish itself as one of the top contenders for the European Championship title.

With another good performance by Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates, Portugal beat the Czech Republic 3-1 Wednesday to finish first in Group A.

"The team is mature and we are on the right track," said Ronaldo, who had not scored a goal for Portugal since a tournament qualifier at Kazakhstan on Oct. 17. "We are among the favorites."

The Portuguese will have nothing on the line when it finishes the group stage against already eliminated Switzerland in Basel on Sunday, and players are already thinking ahead.

"This gives us tranquility for the next few days," playmaker Deco said. "We played well, but now we will have to prepare for next round, which is always more difficult."

Portugal moved up to six points, with the Czechs staying with three. Turkey beat Switzerland 2-1 later Wednesday to eliminate the co-hosts and put Portugal through. The Turks and Czechs will play for the group's other qualification spot on Sunday.

Portugal displayed its free-flowing style for the second straight time, with Ronaldo scoring a goal and helping set up two others.

Ronaldo's 63rd-minute goal, his first in four matches, put his team 2-1 up before substitute Ricardo Quaresma rounded off the scoring in injury time.

"We are among the best eight squads in Europe," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "Of course, we want more than that."

Deco had opened the scoring for Portugal in the eighth, finding the net from close range after an attempted clearance by goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Libor Sionko equalized in the 17th before Ronaldo hit a first-time shot from the edge of the area and Quaresma tapped in from close range.

Ronaldo was also instrumental in Portugal's first goal when he tried to exchange passes with Nuno Gomes. Cech intercepted the return with his leg and redirected it into Deco's path, leaving the diminutive midfielder to force the ball into the net from close range, via a deflection off defender Marek Jankulovski.

"It was very difficult to penetrate the defense," Ronaldo said. "If we're carrying on playing like this as a unit, we've got great chances."

It was Portugal's fourth win in 10 matches against the Czechs, with three losses and three draws.

Led by Scolari, Portugal is trying to reach its second consecutive final at the European Championship. It was runner-up to Greece at Euro 2004 at home. It had another successful campaign at the World Cup in Germany two years later, losing to France in the semifinals.

The Czechs, which reached the 2004 semifinals but also lost to Greece, were hoping for a repeat of Euro 96 when they eliminated Portugal 1-0 in the quarterfinals. They eventually lost the final 2-1 to Germany in what was its best showing since winning the 1976 title as part of the Czechoslovakia.

Both teams were coming off wins in their opening matches. Portugal had a convincing 2-0 victory over Turkey in Geneva, while the Czech Republic edged co-host Switzerland 1-0 in Basel.

Ronaldo did not score against Turkey but was key for the Portuguese offense. In addition to setting up the team's second goal in injury time, he hit the post with a free kick and created several scoring chances throughout the match.

Portugal controlled possession but had trouble penetrating the Czechs, who had the first attempt on goal in the third, when Sionko's shot from just outside the area was deflected by defender Pepe. Ronaldo has his first attempt moments later, but his right-footed effort was also blocked.

Soon after Deco's goal, Jankulovski came close to scoring with a shot wide. Portugal midfielder Armando Petit also had a chance in the 14th, but Cech stopped his long-range attempt.

Midfielder Sionko equalized with a header from in front of goal, beating Portugal midfielder Armando Petit to the ball off a corner by midfielder Jaroslav Plasil.

Sionko missed an open net in the 29th when Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo struggled to deal with a corner, and Czech striker Milan Baros - replacing Jan Koller - threatened in the 36th with a run up the right side. He beat defender Ricardo Carvalho before right back Jose Bosingwa cleared the cross.

"We failed to score more goals and that decided the match," Czech midfielder Marek Matejovsky. "(But) I'm 100 percent sure we'll advance."

Ronaldo had a chance in the 42nd with a powerful left-footed shot that Cech stopped with a diving save and the star winger's last chance of the half came from an injury-time free kick that Cech held.

The Czechs had the first opportunity of the second half when Sionko's cross traveled in front of the goal, but there was nobody to deflect it into the net.

Those chances spurred Scolari to order his team forward in the second half.

"I said they had to be more aggressive," Scolari said. "We had to show the opponent we know how to imposeourselves."

Deco said Scolari didn't sound that polite in the dressing room.

"He shouted two or three times there," he said. "But that's normal, it's his way of reaching out to the group."

Nuno Gomes came close in the 53rd, overpowering Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi just inside the area before shooting weakly. The same player had another chance three minutes later when he beat defender David Rozehnal before his right-footed shot was blocked.

Portugal midfielder Simao Sabrosa missed two chances and Ujfalusi put a header just wide before Ronaldo scored at the packed 30,000-seat Stade de Geneve. Deco played a pass across the edge of the area, taking out three defenders, and Ronaldo hit a low shot past Cech.

In the Czechs' last chances, Sionko had a header in the 83rd which just missed over the crossbar, and just before time his right-footed shot also sailed over.

"In the end, we tried too hard to score," Czech coach Karel Bruckner said. "(Portugal) were able to make perfect transition from defense into offense."