Euro 2012: Expert v Expert Preview - Czech Republic v Portugal


Czech perspective: Michal Petrak

The Czechs have already achieved their main objective at Euro 2012 – reaching the quarter-finals. They are now, therefore, feeling no pressure and can play against Portugal with clear heads. They have gained confidence, too – particularly the like of Vaclav Pilar, Petr Jiracek or Theodor Gebre Selassie, who have been their best performers.

There have been two main storylines in the build-up to the quarter-final. The first surrounds Tomas Rosicky, who left the squad for a day to undergo special treatment in Prague. It is highly probable, however, that he will not be able to participate in the game. He has not trained for a week and it would surely be too much of a risk to put him into starting XI.

The other topic of discussions has been how to defend against Cristiano Ronaldo, a star player revitalised by two goals against the Netherlands.

The Czechs will want to relive their quarter-final encounter with the Portuguese in 1996, when Karel Poborsky decided the game with a miraculous goal. They will sit deep against and wait patiently for a chance to counter-attacking, although this will be made more difficult by the fact that Portugal are more disciplined in defence than in previous tournaments.

The Czech Republic know that they are outsiders and will want to limit any damage before trying to inflict some of their own. As the match wears on, they will likely entertain thoughts of a penalty shootout.

It is, however, very probable that the individual quality of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and others will break their determined defence at least once.

Score prediction: Portugal 2-0 Czech Republic

Ronaldo to score at 2.00; Portugal to progress at 1.35; Portugal to score 2 goals at 3.45.


Portuguese perspective: Ben Shave

On Sunday night against the Netherlands, everything came together for Portugal. Inspired by a remarkable display from captain Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Bento’s men were slick, clinical and effective throughout.

In my pre-tournament examination of the Selecção, I predicted elimination at the group stage – with the caveat that if they did manage to make it out of Euro 2012’s Group of Death, a run to the latter stages was entirely feasible.

The Selecção remain in the running to reach the final, and Bento remains stoic about their chances. However, even this most taciturn of coaches let a little ambition slip in the afterglow of victory. “Is this the high point of my coaching career? The high point of my coaching career is yet to come.”

For a man as reserved as Bento, this was the equivalent of pre-booking the victory craft to sail down Lisbon’s Rio Tejo. The coach, who faced mounting pressure before the tournament kicked off, undoubtedly deserves credit for sticking with the same group of players, despite the odd shaky moment.

Yet as convincing as the win over the Dutch was, it is hard to entirely discount the notion that it was at least in part facilitated by Bert van Marwijk’s suicidally-open tactical approach. Whilst Ronaldo, Nani, João Moutinho and the full back duo João Pereira and Fábio Coentrão were on devastating form against the Oranje, some more level-headed observers have questioned the likelihood of Portugal being afforded such space again during the remainder of the tournament.

Then there is the historical angle. A majestic strike from Karol Poborsky eliminated Vítor Baía, Rui Costa et al from Euro 96, and whilst the Czechs are not the free-flowing attacking force of yesteryear, they are the type of side against whom Portugal have occasionally struggled in recent times: compact, technically proficient and capable of frustrating opponents for long periods of play.

That said, Portugal remain favourites and rightly so. They have consistently given off the air of a squad united under Bento – now; they look a team on the up as well.

Score prediction: Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic (after extra time)

Draw after 90 minutes at 3.60; Portugal to be awarded a penalty at 5.00; under 2.5 goals at 1.70.