Venue: National Stadium Warsaw; Date: 21 June, 2012; Kick-off time: 19:45
Two of the most unlikely teams to advance from the group stages based on their early results will clash in Warsaw for a spot in the semi-finals on Thursday. Czech Republic are winners of Group A after a 4-1 defeat to begin the tournament at the hands of Russia, the Czechs came back to beat Greece (2nd place finishers in Group A) and hosts Poland in successive wins to seal their spot in the opening quarterfinal match-up.
Portugal are 2nd place finishers in the “Group of Death” Group B, an aptly name group because to the very last minute all four teams were fighting for position. Germany finished 1st with 9 points out of a possible 9, however for a long time on Saturday during the Group B finales both matches were tied 1-1 in the second half and any of the 4 teams could’ve advanced. It was Portuguese star and concomitant hero Cristiano Ronaldo who emerged to score a brace and that was quite enough to knock the Netherlands out of Euro 2012.
Portugal have been rejuvenated after a disappointing first two matches of Euro 2012. Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the lion’s share of grief from international media for his inability to carry Portugal into major title consideration. Perhaps, this two-goal performance is a turning point for his national career.
Portugal have maintained their team fitness through the group stage and manager Paulo Bento insists he will start the same side that faced Netherlands on Saturday.
It looks like the Czechs could be without their captain Tomas Rosicky, who suffered an Achilles injury against Greece that forced him out of the 2-1 victory against Poland on Sunday. Rosicky has been flown back to Prague for tests and we won’t know until Wednesday whether or not he will be on a plane to Warsaw for the quarterfinal match.
For both countries’ fans, especially the older fans, there will be an extra thrill in this game. In 1996, the Czech Republic and Portugal matched up for the first time in history in a quarterfinal game at the Euro Championships. Czech Republic won 1-0 and continued on to the finals. This Portuguese team will be seeking revenge for their campaign cut short 16 years ago.
The only other time these two teams met was in 2008 during the European Championships, during the group stages, Portugal won that match resoundingly 3-1 and Portugal went on to the final in that tournament where they lost to Spain.
Predicted line up
Czech Republic: Petr Cech (C), Theodor Gebre Selassie, Michal Kadlec, Tomas Sivok, David Limbersky, Jaroslav Plasil, Vaclav Pilar, Milan Baros, Tomas Hubschman, Daniel Kolar, Petr Jiracek
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, Fabio Coentrao, Cristiano Ronaldo (C), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Nani, Joao Pereira, Helder Postiga
Portugal vs Czech Republic odds
A tempting bet would be a Double Chance of Draw/Portugal offered by William Hill at 15/4 (4.75) odds. Portugal will be looking to exploit Czech Republic on the counter, but will be playing cautiously as any mistake could knock them out of the tournament. These two teams may play cautiously enough to draw at the end of regulation.
Anyone who saw Cristiano Ronaldo performance against Netherlands on Saturday knows he is the biggest threat to score of anyone left in the tournament. His odds of scoring anytime during the match are at 4/5 (1.80) offered by William Hill.
Portugal vs Czech Republic predictions
Portugal are lucky to be in the knock-out rounds at all, but they have played all 3 of their group stage matches with great intensity. They came in 2nd in the most difficult group in the tournament including a decisive and dominating performance against Netherlands.
Czech Republic’s 2 big weaknesses are their lack of depth, they have very little tactical support on the bench and their inconsistent star power. Petr Cech nearly, single-handedly knocked them out of the tournament with some epic blunders. Tomas Rosicky may not play at all, and the lack of his creativity in the midfield will be a serious blow.
Portugal have come into this tournament in form and have gained cohesiveness and momentum since their loss to Germany in the first match.
by Jonathan Schatz
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