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November 18, 2009

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Portugal gets hot reception in Bosnia

PORTUGAL says it will inform FIFA about its squad's hostile reception at Sarajevo airport ahead of a World Cup playoff match with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A small group of Bosnian fans allegedly threatened, jostled and spat at the Portuguese players as they left the airport late on Monday.

But Portuguese Football Federation president Gilberto Madail said he would not lodge a formal complaint with world soccer's governing body because he didn't want to deepen the tension surrounding the game.

Bosnia and Portugal meet today in a second-leg playoff in Zenica. Portugal won the first leg 1-0.

The Portuguese are aiming to clinch their third consecutive World Cup appearance. Bosnia has never played at a World Cup.

The match is rated as high risk because of possible fan trouble and FIFA is sending two of its observers to oversee the security situation.

Portugal will be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo today.

Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic has stirred up local support this week after Portugal won the first leg, asking the 30,000 fans who will pack the stadium in Zenica to take an active part in the game.

"We don't need them just to support us. We need them to roar," Blazevic said. "I need pressure from the first minute."

Blazevic said Portugal's defense is the weak spot. "We should exploit that," he said, adding that a big, hostile crowd will help.

Giving the team extra confidence was some near misses in Lisbon on Saturday, where the Bosnians hit the post or the crossbar three times. "We will win in Zenica," Blazevic said. "(Portugal was) saved by two bars and a post, so I'm increasingly convinced we can catch up and qualify."

But Portugal hasn't lost away from home in a World Cup qualifier in 13 years, and coach Carlos Queiroz is determined to extend that sequence.

"We're going there to score," Queiroz said. "We can't sit back and wait for things to happen. We have to dictate the run of play, stay cool-headed."

Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo has conceded just two goals in 10 matches since his debut in February, and the team has kept a clean sheet in its last three international matches. Center back Bruno Alves, who scored in the first leg, and playmaker Deco are both carrying minor injuries, but are expected to recover.

"It's going to be tough but we always knew it would be," Portugal striker Edinho said.

Defender Ricardo Carvalho said an early goal would make it easier for them to qualify for South Africa, needing only a draw to advance.


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