Czech Republic v Portugal: Euro 2012 match preview
In the first quarter-final of Euro 2012, Portugal take on the Czech Republic.
Here, we provide the low down on the two teams, look at the key battles and provide you with all the stats and facts you need ahead of tonight's match...
Cristiano Ronaldo v Michal Kadlec
Bayern Leverkusen defender Michal Kadlec has been playing out of position at centre back during the tournament so far but has still been one of his the Czech Republic's standout players. He will have to be at the top of his game to keep on top of Cristiano Ronaldo who returned to form in style against the Netherlands. Although Kadlec alone will not be enough to stop Ronaldo; as Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has warned, the whole team will need to be well organised and press him together as he drifts between positions and looks to drop into space.
Tomas Rosicky v Miguel Veloso
Captain Tomas Rosicky is the key orchestrator of the Czech attack and provides a serious threat to any opposition. Defensive midfielder Miguel Veloso will look to pressure his opposite man and cut off the supply between midfield and attack meaning that the Czechs will not be able to bring their goal scoring wingers into the game. If Veloso does not get tight enough then Portugal could find themselves pinned back with their fullbacks unable to get forward as effectively as they have been so far. If Rosicky is unavailable due to a recurring achilles problem then either Jaroslav Plasil or Vaclav Pilar will most likely take his place.
Milan Baros v Pepe
Despite not being particularly imposing physically, Milan Baros holds the ball up well allowing the lively wide men, Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar, to enter the game. Portugal will have recognised this and Real Madrid defender Pepe will look to press Baros and make it difficult for him to bring the wingers into the game, cutting off the Czech's main goal threat. This fight will come down to Pepe's strength against Baros' guile as the striker tries to create some time for himself.
Petr Jiracek v Fabio Coentrao
This could be a vital match up as Jiracek has been one of the top performers so far in the tournament, scoring two goals in the opening three games. Patrick Viera told him that he was "the heart of the team" in their 1-0 victory over Poland. He is playing in an unfamiliar position on the right-hand side of the midfield, but his performances would lead one to believe otherwise as he has dazzled down that wing. Real Madrid left-back Coentrao has the job of trying to nullify the Czech midfielder, but he has looked solid so far and will relish the challenge. Coentrao also poses an attacking threat from wide, but must be careful not to leave Portugal vulnerable on the counter-attack.
FACTS AND STATS...
Czech Republic topped Group A. They lost their first match 4-1 to Russia, but came back to beat Greece and Poland, 2-1 and 1-0 respectively.
Portugal were runners up in Group B. They lost 1-0 to Germany but responded well, beating Denmark 3-2 and Netherlands 2-1.
The winner of tonight's game will play the victors of Saturday's clash between Spain and France.
There are 11 players on yellow cards who must avoid another if they are to prevent themselves being suspended for the semi-final stage, provided they get through. Tonight's referee, Englishman Howard Webb,has only shown three yellow cards in the two matches he has officiated.
Players on a booking: Czech Republic: David Limbersky, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil, Daniel Kolar, Petr Jiracek, Tomas Pekhart. Portugal: Fabio Conetrao, Helder Postiga, Raul Meireles, Christiano Ronaldo, Joao Pereira
DID YOU KNOW...
This isn't the first time the Czech's have qualified through the group stages with a negative goal difference. At Euro 96 the Czech's progressed through to play the Portuguese in the quarter-finals having conceded more times than they scored. On that occasion the Czech's came out on top against Portugal 1-0.
Should either side go on to win Euro 2012, they would become only the second team to win the tournament after losing their first group game. The Netherlands are the only team who have achieved this, when they won Euro 88.
Petr Jiracek's goal after two minutes and 14 seconds against Greece was the joint-third fastest goal in the history of the tournament.
Ronaldo is the first Portuguese player to score at five major tournaments. He also scored at the Euros in 2004 and 2008, and at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
Portugal were the only country to have the exact same starting line-up for all three group games.
Ronaldo's double against Netherlands took him to 34 goals for Portugal, surpassing Luis Figo's haul for the national team.
The Euro Club Index has Portugal as favourites to progress with a 55.2 per cent chance of going through to the semi-finals and the Czech Republic with a 44.8 per cent chance of winning tonight in Warsaw.
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