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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Euro 2004 diary
By Phil McNulty and Paul Fletcher
Our men in Portugal

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio: From treading water at Chelsea to the treadmill in Portugal
Gym junkies at the England media hotel thought "The Tinkerman" was in town when Claudio Ranieri took to the treadmill and started pounding away.

Or at least his double did - with a hauntingly familiar haircut and trademark specs.

"Claudio" was soon into his stride and gathering glances.

That was until a polite inquiry about the whereabouts of the water dispenser revealed an accent that was more Romford than Rome.

France's players were no look-alikes at the same hotel, striding around mixing with supporters to the pleasure of their fans who flocked around them.

Zinedine Zidane was a particular target, with the great man stopping to politely sign autographs and even sign a Real Madrid shirt - albeit with a most unusual signature.

France looked incredibly relaxed, led by the permanently smiling Jacques Santini.

But England's players had a look of equal determination when they trained at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Marcel Desailly revealed a touch of humour amid his disappointment about missing the game against England through injury.

Desailly announced instantly in English that he was not playing, a revelation that appeared to cause major confusion among a couple of reporters.

"So you're not playing?" "No I'm not playing." "So you're not playing?" "No I'm really not playing." "What! You're not playing?" Desailly (beaming broadly): "I didn't realise my English was this bad."

Still didn't stop us all actually thinking he'd been dropped though.

Czech Republic forward Vladimir Smicer is hoping to get his English counterparts hot under the collar.

The Czech squad are enjoying their stay at Penha Longa, a luxurious hotel and golf resort close to Lisbon.

But they were bemused to find the wives and girlfriends of the England team checking in as well.

And Smicer wasted no time in telling the Czech press that he had sent Michael Owen a text message saying what a pleasure a trip to the sauna now was.

Securing an interview in the mixed zone after the opening game of a tournament is never easy.

Especially when the host nation have just lost and hardly any of their players speak English.

It was with a face of near-desperation therefore that an appeal was made to Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo as he walked past.

The winger stopped but, alas, was besieged by Portuguese press and all Ronaldo managed in English was: "Sorry what can I do?".

The youngster with the dazzling feet had an almost apologetic grin on his face as he muttered the words - though nothing was quite as dazzling as the reflection when the light crossed his diamond earring.

The enthusiastic Portuguese made the tournament's opening game a real family occasion.

Watching football here seems different to England, where whole families are often tucked away in the safe haven of a 'family stand'.

It was not unusual to see several generations of the same family making their way together to Estadio do Dragao for Portugal's game with Greece.

The problem with this is that when your teams loses as Portugal did, there is no one left at home to soothe you with the words "It's only a game".

Links to more Euro 2004 stories


Euro 2004 diary
12 Jun 04  |  Euro 2004


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