Czech Republic v Portugal lineup preview. Euro 2012

Today sees the first quarter-final of the Euros between Czech Republic and Portugal. The Czech’s finished on top of their group while Portugal finished second behind Germany. Paulo Bento’s men will go into the game as favourites after their dominate performance against the Netherlands. In that match Ronaldo was given too much freedom to move and teared the Dutch apart. Czech manager Michal Bilek will be aware of this and won’t allow him the same amount of freedom. He will also be pleased that his team have improved through out this tournament after losing 4-1 to Russia in their first game.

  • For the Czech’s Tomas Rosicky is a major doubt for this match after suffering an Achilles tendon injury. It looks likely that he won’t recover in time so Daniel Kolar of Viktoria Pizen will start as he did against Poland. He will be charged in acting as the creative fulcrum for the Czech’s, he may struggle in that regard against an experienced Portuguese back-line.
  • Theodor Gebre-Selassie has been a stand-out performer for the Czech’s. The right-back has the ability to get forward to give width to the attack and has been solid in defense (Apart from the Russia game). His battle with Ronaldo will be interesting as although he likes to go forward he can not leave space for Ronaldo to move into. As the Dutch found out, you leave Ronaldo too much room and he will punish you. He will have to choose his runs up field more carefully in this match.
  • Portugal have their own attacking full-back in Fabio Coentrao. The Real Madrid man likes to get forward and this match could come down to how well each sides full-backs perform. With play sometimes getting bogged down in midfield over-lapping runs from deep could become key. Against Denmark Coentrao’s pressure high up the pitch forced them into a mistake and his cross set up Silvestre Varela to score the winner.
  • The strikers for each side are hardly the most prolific, Milan Baros hasn’t scored and doesn’t look that threatening. For Portugal, Helder Postiga has scored but is in the side more for his work-rate then his scoring ability. Both will play as the sole striker and could find chances limited as they become isolated up-front.
  • Meireles, Moutinho and Veloso are three very similar midfield players but none of them are that creative. There is no Rui Costa or Deco in this side so the main attacking threat will come from Nani and Ronaldo. While Ronaldo was phenomenal against Holland, Nani was just as effective. His ability to break at speed help set up Ronaldo for the third goal against the Dutch and his trickery could unsettle the Czech’s.
  • Czech Republic also have a threat from midfield in Vaclav Pilar. The attacking-midfielder has scored two goals so far and his runs from the left has upset defenses. He will be looking to put Joao Pereira on the back foot.
  • Portugal have some tall players in Pepe, Alves and Ronaldo and will be a threat from corners and set-pieces.
  • Manager Paulo Bento has said Ronaldo will not be given a free role against the Czech’s. There is a temptation to  let him roam about the pitch to allow him the freedom to attack whenever he wants but Bento has resisted this. If Ronaldo was given a free role then it puts more pressure on the rest of the side to defend when they are without the ball. At this level you can’t underestimate any side and so Bento needs everyone to sacrifice themselves for the performance of the team.
  •  This is probably one of the hardest quarter-finals to call. Portugal appear to the favourites but the Czech Republic have improved with every match. Petr Cech’s form in-goal has been patchy so far so a big performance is expected from him. The pressure is probably all on Portugal as the Czech’s weren’t fancied to make it this far. Portugal will most likely dominate the game and most of their play will be focused down the flanks to get Nani and Ronaldo into the game. The same goes for the Czech’s who will want to get the ball to Pilar and Jiracek. Russia showed that the Czech’s defensive can be unsettled when caught on the break so expect them to look a little unsettled at the start of the match.
  • Both sides have a number of players who will be suspended if shown a yellow card today. For Portugal: Helder Postiga, Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, Raul Meireles and Joao Pereira. For Czech Republic: Jaroslav Plasil, David Limbersky, Tomas Rosicky, Tomas Pekhart, Petr Jiracek and Daniel Kolar. With so many players facing suspension that may affect their decision-making, they may not make a tackle that they usually would and that could lead to a more attacking match.
  • Prediction: Czech Republic 1 Portugal 2 after extra-time.
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