National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland
18:45 GMT, 21st June, 2012
The age ol’ cliche of ‘the team which will score more goals wins the game‘ is quite apt for the first Quarter-Final of this Euro 2012. Czech Republic, with a very decent attacking line-up, will not only absorb waves of Portuguese attacks, but will show their mettle too, up front. Talking about attacking games between the two countries, one needs to deep dive into history books and land upon the ordinate pages of Euro 96′.
Portugal, with the likes of Luis Figo, Ruis Costa and Joao Pinto in attack had a fantastic tournament, till they lined up against the Czechs. This game was no different, the Seleccao dominated the game from start to finish, but failed to break the deadlock, thanks to some resilient defending from the Czechs.
Former Manchester United man, Karel Poborksy would then break Portuguese hearts by delightfully chipping over Portugal keeper Vitor Baia and thereby ending the dream journey for the Portuguese. That team was full of attacking players but missed the finishing touches of a ‘C Ronaldo’ that this generation can boast of. It remains to be seen if the Portuguese outfit find it easy this time around or history repeats itself.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The biggest injury concern for the Czech is the fitness of their influential captain, Tomas Rosicky, who had traveled back to Prague for a minor ‘work’ on his Achilles. The manager is not too confident about his captain’s chances of playing tonight. Rosicky, who is not a traditional Central Attacking Midfielder any more, but more of a deep lying attacking threat in the mould of Steven Gerrard in the latest England system, is the most potent creative outlet. His unavailability will be a big blow, Daniel Kolar and Jaroslav Plasil will have to take up combined creative responsibility.
The most productive area of the Czech Republic outfit has been the wings in this tournament with Jirasev and Pilar, both capable of assisting as well as scoring goals. The Portuguese will have to watch out for the marauding runs of these wingers and make sure crosses aren’t delivered with considerable ease. The attacking threat on the wings doesn’t end there; Full Backs Limbersky and Selassie run down the wings quite often and are capable of providing moments of brilliance.
At the top of the park, the Czechs will, as usual, operate with a solo striker with advanced wingers, exactly the way Portugal line up, cancelling each other in strategy. Milan Baros, a former Golden Boot winner, will take up that all-important berth at the top of the field.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-1-4-1]: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Hubschman; Plasil, Jiracek, Kolar, Pillar; Baros
Paolo Bento’s men managed to come out of a group which many predicted they won’t. They just lost to tournament favorites Germany, but even then they had their chances, they were graceful in loss. The team stands on that one massive player – Cristiano Ronaldo. But there are other names who have put in a lot of effort to make this journey for Portugal at the Euros a memorable one. Real Madrid men Coentrao and Pepe are two big match players at the back of the pack, with the left full back capable of magical moments in advanced positions during the course of the game.
At the top, Helder Postiga is expected to start as he has done throughout the tournament, though the manager can risk playing young Nelson Oliviera at the top, fearing about exhaustion on Postiga’s part. A vital role falls for Miguel Veloso, who has been very consistent so far. He needs to be the standout defensive midfield player in the two teams if the Portugal are to progress.
No team needs to study videos about the possible dangers of Nani and Ronaldo on the wings, the current and former Manchester United men are extremely skillful players, both capable of causing havoc in opponent’s half. Counter-attacks can be one very useful ploy used by the Seleccao to beat Czech Republic tonight and these two wingers can play a huge role in that.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-3-3]: Rui Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Key Match Facts
- Portugal are yet to win the Euros, “Czechoslovakia” won it in 1976.
- In the last six games, Portugal has won 3 and lost 1, while Czech Republic has won 4 and lost 2.
- Ronaldo (34) is now, just behind Pauleta (47), as Portugals’ all-time highest goal-scorer
- Cech, Baros, Rosicky and Plasil – veterans in the team, have all played over 70 games for the country.
Player to Watch Out For
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
46 goals, 12 assists and 264 shots on goal – those stats are not of a team, they are of one Cristiano Ronaldo, from the just-concluded La-Liga season, playing for Real Madrid. The Portuguese captain has been in sublime form this season. In fact, he has also gone ahead with erasing the ‘Big Match Choker’ tag by scoring and winning against perennial league foes Barcelona. Ronaldo scored a brace in his last game of the group stage and is expected to continue with his good form. There is nothing much an opponent can do, when Ronaldo is on song, he is that kind of a ‘complete’ player!
Czech Republic 1 – 2 Portugal
It is expected to be a cracker! Both teams have a lot going forward, they have many goal-scorers from the wings. It will be a very open game, stretched on the wings, with Portugal coming up trumps, only just, as we predict a 2-1 win for them.
1996 Runners-Up, 2004 Semi-Finalist [* 1976 Champions as Czechoslovakia]
1984 Semi-Finalist, 2000 Semi-Finalist, 2004 Runners-Up