After a few days of rest, the Euro 2016 quarterfinals can begin, kicking off with Poland playing Portugal at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
- This is only the third Euro for Poland, and it’s also the first time they’ve made it past the group stage
- Portugal are in the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive time, making it to the semifinal four years ago
Road to the quarterfinals
- Poland finished second in their group behind Germany, drawing with the Germans, while beating Northern Ireland and Ukraine. They beat Switzerland in the round of 16, and have conceded one goal in the tournament, but haven’t scored more than one in any of their matches.
- Portugal have drawn all of their matches so far: With Austria, Iceland and Hungary in the group stage, and through 90 minutes against Croatia in the round of 16. A goal by Ricardo Quaresma in the 117th minute put them in the final 8
Down to business
Everyone knows Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s star player, but he’s been having a tough tournament so far. In his scoring absence, it seems that Jakub Błaszczykowski and Arkadiusz Milik are making the most of the opportunity, scoring Poland’s three goals so far, and getting opportunities as defenses are forced to focus on the Bayern Munich striker. Poland’s strength comes from it’s wing play, persistence to stick to the plan and the pace, at least initially. Their defensive game, led by Grzegorz Krychowiak, has been fantastic, doing a good job against both Germany and Switzerland, withstanding heavy pressure in both matches, especially near the end.
Portugal, in terms of ability, have been a disappointment. But they have Cristiano Ronaldo, even in a bad tournament, capable of scoring from anywhere, at any time. Renato Sanches might get a bigger role in this match after his impressive performance against Croatia, although keeping him and Ricardo Quaresma in some sort of super-sub role could be beneficial in the second half to completely change the match.
Portugal will enjoy possession more likely, which is quite comfortable for the Polish side. Portugal need to get more out of Nani and Joao Mario in order to make their possession count for something, otherwise they’ll be exposed to counter attacks against a team that’s conceded just once in the tournament. Portugal are undefeated in competitive matches under Fernando Santos, but they probably need Ronaldo to be better in order to qualify. He has scored only twice in 12 international knockout matches with Portugal, something Poland are hoping will show in this match as well.