The group stages are done and dusted and the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals get under way today when the Czech Republic take on Portugal at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Both teams arrive at knockout stage having bounced back from opening defeats in their respective groups to win their other two games. Portugal were beaten 1-0 by Germany in their first outing but stormed back with victories over Denmark and Holland to finish second in Group B. The Czechs reached the last eight as Group A winners, rebounding from an opening 4-1 defeat to Russia to beat Greece and co-hosts Poland.
The clash is a repeat of the Euro 1996 quarter-final, when the Czech Republic stunned the Portuguese with a 1-0 win thanks to Karel Poborsky’s memorable scoop goal. Their only other meeting since the split of Czechoslovakia 19 years ago came at the 2008 tournament, when Portugal gained revenge with a 3-1 victory in the group stage.
The Czechs have been dealt a blow with the news Tomas Rosicky will not feature in the starting line-up after struggling to make a full recovery from an Achilles injury. The Arsenal midfielder, who flew back to Prague earlier this week to receive treatment, left his decision until after training on Thursday morning because he wanted to see how the injury would react. Team manager Vladimir Smicer told Czech Television: “Tomas will certainly not play from the first minute. But if we should be in trouble towards the end of the match we might use him.”
On the other hand, Portuguese manager Paulo Bento has no injury worries and is expected to field Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo in support of Helder Postiga up front. Ronaldo scored twice against Holland to increase his tally for Portugal to 34 goals.
Played – 2
Czech Republic Wins – 1
Draws – 0
Portugal Wins – 1
Czech Republic – WWLLW
16-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
12-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic
08-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Russia 4-1 Czech Republic
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Czech Republic 1-2 Hungary
26-May-12 – Friendly – Czech Republic 2-1 Israel
Portugal – WWLLD
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Portugal 2-1 Netherlands
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Portugal 1-3 Turkey
26-May-12 – Friendly – Portugal 0-0 Macedonia
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Petr Cech (Czech Republic)
The Chelsea goalkeeper has had a shaky last 12 months for both his club and country, yet he remains the main man between the sticks for his country. The 30-year-old who is set lead his side in the absence of the injured Tomas Rosicky would surely be his side’s main man as they look to face Cristiano Ronaldo and co tonight. The Czechs would need him to be at his best, if they have stand any chance of upsetting the Portuguese and booking themselves a place in the semi-finals.
Michal Kadlec (Czech Republic)
The Bayer Leverkusen man has been playing out of position in the center of the Czech Republic defence, and has been very impressive so far at UEFA EURO 2012. He kept his side in the tournament by making an important in the last minute of injury time against Poland and will have to be at his brilliant best on Thursday to help his team contain Portugal and most importantly Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The Real Madrid star has silenced all his critics by scoring a brace against the Netherlands, when it mattered the most, and he will be keen to continue with that form and prove to everyone that it wasn’t just one of performance. His pace, trickery and shooting from range will be the key to unlock Michal Bilek’s side’s defence. The Portuguese will be dependent on their skipper to produce the good and take them through to the semi-finals.
The Real Madrid defender has been as solid as a rock in the heart of the Portuguese defence. The hard tacking defender has had an excellent tournament so far, and has been one of the reason why Portugal has made it through the Group of Death and to the quarter-finals. He was solid against the Dutch on Sunday. Another performance like that against the Czechs today and Portugal are through to the final four.
Czech Republic(4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok, Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky; Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plasil; Petr Jiracek, Daniel Kolar, Vaclav Pilar; Milan Baros.
The Czech have an extremely dangerous attacking force down the wings, with both full-backs Theodor Gebre Selassie and David Limbersky supporting Jiracek and Pilar at every given opportunity. Rosicky has been ruled out to start this game but may make an appearance from the bench, in his place Daniel Kolar will continue to deputise. Baros and Kolar will be the men down the middle, with Tomas Hubschman and Jaroslav Plasil protecting the midfield from the deep positions. Tomas Sivoc and Michal Kadlec have grown in stature as the tournament has progressed and their presence in the centre of defence will once again prove to be vital.
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Joao Perreira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Helder Postiga, Cristiano Ronaldo (C).
The Portuguese have a settled 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldo and Nani flanking with Postiga in the middle. Miguel Veloso will be tasked with shielding the back-four while Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles complete the midfield trio. The central pair of Pepe and Bruno Alves will have Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao for support on either side, with Rui Patricio between the posts.
Czech Republic 4/1 Draw 13/5 Portugal 8/11
The Portuguese have a lot of attacking talent to trouble the Czechs and in Cristiano Ronaldo they have got the second best player in the whole world. But at the same time Czech Republic are equally dangerous especially attacking from the wide areas. The game will have a cautious start with both teams making sure they don’t concede an early goal. As the two teams settle down, they will start playing some free flowing attacking football and Cristiano Ronaldo will be the key. If the Czech defence can keep the former Manchester United star quiet for the whole game then they are in win a huge chance, but I can’t see that happening with the form he is in.
Predicted Score – Czech Republic 1-2 Portugal