Czech Republic 1 Portugal 3: Ronaldo at the heart of Portugal's progress
Thursday 12 June 2008
Having been told earlier in the day that their manager will quit after Euro 2008 to join Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal team did a good job of looking like the most composed team in the tournament last night.
They are the first team through to the quarter-finals, the first team to lose their manager and the team in possession of the man who looks like he will be the player for whom the competition is remembered.
He is Ronaldo and if his team stay in Austria until the final on 29 June then Scolari will have 18 days to persuade the Manchester United winger that he is better off joining Real Madrid. Mischievous? It might just be the most important things Scolari does as Chelsea manager all year.
Advantage Real Madrid? The Spanish club's acquisitive executives will have been salivating as Ronaldo glided away from the Czech defence in the closing stages of the game and ran at goal with barely a defender in sight. When he squared the ball for the unmarked Ricardo Quaresma to stroke it home, Ronaldo demonstrated that he is still capable of sharing the glory among those whose make up the rest of the Portugal team – for now at least.
In those final moments before the announcement that he was to be the new Chelsea manager, Scolari gave no hint of the news he had broken to his players in the hotel hours earlier. "I am very proud of what we have done," he said. "I've never had more than three days with these players before but now I have 18 days to work and we can do something. It's like being a club coach again."
This was not as effortless for the Portuguese as the ending suggested, or as their early goal from Deco hinted at. "Can we dream of winning [Euro 2008]?," Ronaldo said afterwards. "We can all dream. We all have the right to dream, but we have passed only one stage. The way to the final is a long one but we are in a good condition."
The dream as far as Portugal's prospective opponents are concerned will be a defence that looks vulnerable to crosses played into the area – the Czechs equalised in the 17th minute with a virtually free header from Libor Sionko at a corner.
However, Ronaldo put Portugal back in front just after the hour. Quick feet carried him through the penalty area and on to the end of Deco's pass across the goal before any of the Czech defence could jab a toe at the ball.
Ronaldo was then played in to set up Quaresma's late goal. He and Quaresma were together as young players at the Sporting Lisbon academy where, at one time, they were regarded as comparable talents. Nowadays, no one is really regarded as comparable to Ronaldo and few know better what an asset the player must be to Manchester United than Scolari. The new Chelsea manager.
Czech Republic (4-1-4-1): Cech (Chelsea); Grygera (Juventus), Ujfalusi (Fiorentina), Rozehnal (Lazio), Jankulovski (Milan); Galasek (Nuremberg); Sionko (FC Copenhagen), Matejovsky (Reading), Polak (Anderlecht), Plasil (Osasuna); Baros (Portsmouth). Substitutes: Vlcek (Anderlecht) for Matejovsky, 68; Koller (Nuremburg) for Galasek, 73; Jarolim (Hamburg) for Plasil, 85.
Portugal (4-2-3-1): Ricardo (Real Betis); Bosingwa (Chelsea), Pepe (Real Madrid), Carvalho (Chelsea), Ferreira (Chelsea); Petit (Benfica), Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Deco (Barcelona), Simao (Atletico Madrid); Gomes (Benfica). Substitutes: Meira (Stuttgart) for Moutinho, 75; Almeida (Werder Bremen) for Gomes, 79; Quaresma (Porto) for Simao, 80.
Referee: K Vassaras (Greece)
Booked: Czech Republic Polak; Portugal Bosingwa.
Man of the match: Deco.
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