Alexander Frei of Switzerland lies on the ground after suffering a knee injury Saturday against the Czech Republic. ((Phil Cole/Getty Images)

Co-host Switzerland lost the opening game on Euro 2008 and, more worrisome, its best player.

Substitute Vaclav Sverkos scored in the 71st minute to lift the Czech Republic to a 1-0 victory over the Swiss in their Group A game in Basel.

Striker Alexander Frei, Switzerland's all-time leading scorer with 35 goals in 59 appearances, left the game late in the first half after suffering a knee injury. The Swiss captain was seen on crutches during the second half and his status for the remainder of the three-week tournament was unclear.

"It's a disaster, of course, to lose our captain in the first game the way we did," said Switzerland coach Koebi Kuhn.

The Czech victory was a cruel result for the Swiss, who dominated possession and carved out far more scoring chances than their opponents.

"This was not our best," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner said.

Indeed, the Czechs are noted for their fearless and attacking brand of soccer, but against the Swiss they sat back and soaked up the pressure, and tried to catch their opponents on the counter-attack.

Switzerland dictated the pace of the game in the first half, and Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech was forced to make four big saves, including stopping Frei on a long-range effort at the 35-minute mark.

Things turned grim for the Swiss late in the half when Frei collided knee-on-knee with Czech defender Zdenek Grygera. The Swiss forward crumbled to the ground and after receiving medical attention, he began sobbing uncontrollably as team trainers helped him walk off the field.

Hakan Yakin came on in place of Frei at the start of the second half as Switzerland continued to press and put pressure on the overwhelmed Czechs.

It was another second-half substitute, though, who made an immediate impact. Just 15 minutes after replacing Jan Koller in the second half, Sverkos collected a chipped pass over the Swiss defence and coolly slotted the ball home.

The goal was Sverkos's first in four games for the Czech national team.

"It was the best moment of my football career," Sverkos said. "I'd be happy to score more goals."

Undeterred, the Swiss poured on the pressure and were nearly rewarded with 10 minutes left in regulation. Cech made a brilliant save off a close-range effort by Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta, and Johan Vonlanthen blasted the rebound off the crossbar, squandering Switzerland's best scoring chance of the contest.

The Swiss will also feel hard done by because on the same play, Italian referee Roberto Rosetti let the game continue after an apparent hand-ball offence by Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi inside the penalty area.

"I actually jumped against the ball and the ball hit my hand," Ujfalusi said. "I couldn't do anything about it."


Czech Republic: Vaclav Sverkos — He wasted little time in scoring after coming into the game as a second-half substitute.

Switzerland: Tranquillo Barnetta — The Swiss playmaker caused plenty of problems for the Czech defence.

With files from Associated Press