Injury toll mounts up at Euro-2008
( AFP ) - Even before opening match protagonists Switzerland and the Czech Republic had kicked a ball in anger a growing clutch of the 16 participating nations were seeking a clean bill of health in vain on Saturday.
Poland, facing Germany in their opening game on Sunday, have been hardest hit with two of their squad already having had to pull out while Portugal goalkeeper Quim has succumbed to a hand fracture.
The Swiss also lost their talismanic captain and striker Alexander Frei after just 42 minutes against the Czechs as he had to go off after tangling with Czech defender Zdenek Grygera.
The Czechs themselves had to leave out Zdenek Pospech, the defender suffering from a fever and a virus.
They were dropping like flies on Saturday afternoon when Quim made his premature exit while Holland announced that flying winger Arjen Robben will miss their first game against Italy on Monday in Geneva after he suffered a groin strain in training.
The Dutch were already without recovering thigh strain victim Robin van Persie.
France are sweating on captain Patrick Vieira, who faces an eleventh-hour fitness test on his injured thigh ahead of Monday's Group C opener against Romania.
Gallic teammates Thierry Henry and Franck Ribery have also only been undertaking light training after receiving knocks in the 1-0 friendly win over Colombia on Tuesday.
If Barcelona's Henry is not ready then Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka will likely play alongside Lyon's Karim Benzema up front.
After a long club season international teams often have to make their own luck and so far, that of three-times champions Germany is holding.
In contrast, the Poles have had to reshuffle the pack before taking on Die Mannschaft after midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski had to pull out of the tournament having aggravated a hamstring injury in training on Thursday.
Lukasz Piszczek of German outfit Hertha Berlin stepped into the breach.
Coach Leo Beenhakker also lost left-back Grzegorz Bronowicki from his provisional squad last month because of a knee injury and now must field a makeshift defence in the Germany match with goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak also ruled out of the event because of a back injury.
Poland team officials have asked European football's governing body UEFA to replace Manchester United's Kuszczak with Wojciech Kowalewski, who plays for Polish first division side Korona Kielce.
Beenhakker, who has seen it all before at 65, could afford a grim smile on Saturday after the injury blows forced a rethink.
"We're not going to do anything different - we're not going to go running around the park tomorrow in the nude!"
"We'll go the stadium singing tralala. Will it be tralala afterwards? That I don't know," he laughed.
Poland's rivals Croatia were hoping that defender Vedran Corluka will recover from an Achilles tendon problem to play against Austria on Sunday.
The malaise has also afflicted holders Greece with midfielder Georgios Karagounis battling to be fit for the start of his country's title defence after suffering a knee injuryt in a warm-up encounter.
The Panathinaikos star said on Saturday he was "optimistic" of facing Sweden on Tuesday.
Russia have already bade farewell to leading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak after he pulled out Saturday with a left knee injury.
The Zenit St Petersburg forward, who finished this season's UEFA Cup campaign as joint top scorer along with Luca Toni with 10 goals, will be replaced by Samara midfielder Oleg Ivanov.