Today at Euro 2012: Czech Republic v Portugal

 

Czech Republic v Portugal

The Czech Republic midfielder Petr Jiracek says his team are under pressure to emulate the success of the side who nearly won Euro 96, ahead of tonight's quarter-final against Portugal.

"The Czech team had such a good name and now people expect us to reach the final every time. So, maybe we're at a bit of a disadvantage," said Jiracek, who has put in a string of impressive performances during the tournament. "We're trying to achieve the same success."

It is likely that the Czech captain, Tomas Rosicky, described as "irreplaceable" by his coach, Michal Bilek, will again miss out as he battles against an Achilles problem.

The Arsenal midfielder trained for the first time yesterday and faces a late fitness test. The outlook according to the Czech sports manager, Vladimir Smicer, is blea, though.

"For him to play in such a tough match, he should at the very least have had three full training sessions to be 100 per cent ready," Smicer said.

The Czechs recovered from a galling 4-1 opening day defeat by Russia to top Group A while their opponents finished second to Germany in Group B. That was largely down to Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice to seal a 2-1 win over the Netherlands.

Midfielder Raul Meireles admitted the fully fit Portugal squad rely on the Real Madrid forward's leadership.

"The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most professional players I have ever come across," Meireles said. "He is our leader and there is no one who wants to win more than him.

"We'll be trying to prove that the favourites don't have to necessarily always win."

Kick-off 7.45pm, Warsaw (BBC 1) Ref H Webb (Eng) Odds: Czech Republic 9-2 Draw 5-2 Portugal 8-11

Player to watch: Joao Moutinho, Portugal

Portugal's 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands may have surprised some, but a team that gets the best out of its players will usually beat one that does not. Coach Paulo Bento has created a coherent, well-balanced system and it has Joao Moutinho at its heart.

The 25-year-old Porto midfielder has been excellent, orchestrating Portugal's best attacks, playing perfect passes through for Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani to bound dangerously on to. The winning goal on Sunday came when Moutinho played a ball to Nani, who took it without breaking stride before crossing to Ronaldo, who scored.

It was not Moutinho's first assist of the tournament. In the 3-2 win over Denmark, his perfect corner was headed in by Pepe. Moutinho's technical quality, passing range and vision have made him Portugal's most influential player.

There is a natural division of labour in Bento's midfield. Miguel Veloso destroys, Raul Meireles runs and Moutinho creates. He is Portugal's leading passer, having completed 105 passes – 27 more than the next best, Veloso, and with the best accuracy at 87.5 per cent.

Should this authoritative form continue it would mark the fulfilment of a talent which has been promising much for years. Moutinho emerged as a brilliant teenager for Sporting Lisbon; a regular at 19, captain at 20. Two summers ago he cut his ties to move to Porto. There, under Andre Villas-Boas, he helped to achieve the domestic double and Europa League successes which propelled his manager, although not Moutinho himself, to Chelsea.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn