It’s not all about Cristiano Ronaldo, but as usual, with Real Madrid or with Portugal, it’s mostly about him. Because the Czech Republic aren’t that good of a team, and because CR7 can’t help but draw all the attention to himself, on purpose or not, as the two nations open the Euro 2012 quarterfinals stage.
It’s about how the Czechs will handle the speed of Portugal’s wings, with Fabio Coentrao adding a lot of support in the last two matches to Ronaldo down the left flank, while Nani played much better against the Netherlands. The Czechs won’t open up things in a suicidal way like the Dutch did in the last half hour, but they are one of those teams that simply can’t put everyone back and hope to poach a goal through a rare counter attack.
This team is built on having possession, hoping the fast Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar manage to find an opening through some Rosicky pass. Hubschman and Plasil will need help in containing the Portuguese midfield trio of Moutinho, Veloso and Meireles that played fantastic football in the third group match. Both teams seemed to improve with every match – losing the first, being counted out by everyone and coming up with two wins.
But Portugal, obviously the more talented side, impressed much more with a good first half against Denmark, needing some late minute magic from Varela, and a very good match against the Netherlands. Again, with the Czech Republic’s fragile back, I think Bento should go for a faster front – leave Postiga on the bench and go for Nelson Oliveira or Varela in the front three instead.
For the Czechs, it’ll be like in the last two matches. Not to open up their midfield too much, exposing their weak defense to countless counter attacks. It ended with 4 goals conceded against Russia, and Portugal are just as dangerous. Hubschman (probably) will need to hang back and be on a vigilant watch for turnovers, trying to minimize damages.
Prediction – With Portugal heading into the knockout stage in such momentum, a team as inferior as the Czech Republic, won’t be able to stop Paulo Bento’s side from reaching the Semi Final.
Game Time – 20:45 in Warsaw