Quarterfinal Game #1- Czech Republic (#1 Seed- Group A) v. Portugal (#2 Seed- Group B)- Last Meeting- Euro 2008- Portugal win 3-1
Overview- These are two teams that many believed would not get out of pool play. Both moved on via their results on the last day of pool play. The Czechs came out of arguably the weakest group. The Portuguese came out of arguably the toughest group. This matchup will be dictated by the pace of play. If the pace of play is quick, the Portuguese have the upper hand. If they pace of play is slow and deliberate, the Czechs have a chance to win.
Offense- The Portuguese and the Czechs play different styles.
The Portuguese like to play off of the wings with their primary creators Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo. They also are lightning quick on the counterattack as not many can match the pace of Nani and Ronaldo. Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles can create in the center of the field and will have to do so against the Czechs. Helder Postiga is the “X” factor for me. Can he score in big games and help Ronaldo and Nani shoulder the burden of goal scoring? He has a goal in the tournament already and his movement has been good. My answer is yes.
The Czechs like to play slowly and deliberately through Tomas Rosicky. But, Rosicky is an injury concern and his availability is uncertain. If he is not orchestrating the attack, the Czechs will have to turn to Vaclav Pilar and Jaroslav Plasil. Tomas Pekhart could also play a vital role as a playmaker even though he has been used in a striking role. Milan Baros is the “X” factor for the Czechs. He has not scored yet for the Czechs and he needs to prove that he still has it to play at this level. If he cannot produce, they need to be quick and decisive in substituting him and getting a replacement in the game.
Midfield- This game is all about control of the pace of play.
The Portuguese play two midfielders in offensive positions. Joao Moutinho is an offensively gifted midfielder and passer. Raul Miereles can play both offensively or defensively. He can chip in goals or play in a defensive role. Miguel Veloso is the stay-at-home midfielder. If the Portuguese can keep the ball moving forward and do it with blinding quickness, they will have a decisive advantage as the Czechs cannot match their pace. The Portuguese wing backs also serve as additional midfielders in attack. Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao provide more width and overlapping runs so Nani and Ronaldo can attack the interior of the defense. This will provide the Czechs with some serious issues.
The Czechs will need Jaroslav Plasil to defensively slow the game down. He needs to maintain control of the ball and get the ball to Rosicky and Pilar to settle play down. If the Czechs can hold onto the ball for longer periods and then take their chances when they get them, they can be effective. They also need their outside defenders to get forward. Theodor Gebre Selassie will get forward and he can be a threat with delivering the ball into the box.
Defense- Both teams are somewhat suspect in defense although their tournament record will show that both have not let in many goals.
The Portuguese defense has two very solid center backs in Pepe and Bruno Alves. Both are physical and tenacious. The problem with the Portuguese is that they are susceptible to counterattacks if their wing backs get forward. Veloso will have to hold in the midfield and provide them with an extra defender if Coentrao and Pereira get forward.
The Czechs have been solid in the back as Tomas Sivok and David Limbersky have solidified since they were ambushed by the Russians in the first pool play game. The Czechs face a similar problem if Selassie gets forward against the counterattack. With the pace the Portuguese possess, I can’t see Selassie getting forward often without the Czechs paying the ultimate penalty for it.
Goal- Both goalies have had moments that they would like to forget in this tournament, but both are proven professionals.
Rui Patricio is a competent, solid goaltender that does not have much of an international presence due to his playing in Portugal for club football. He is agile and usually is in sound positions. He is not the most physically gifted goalie and that could prove a problem.
Petr Cech is one of the best goalies in the world. He is a game-changer and has the ability to steal a game by playing outstanding. He is also prone to making boneheaded mistakes. He has an international pedigree, his record at the club level speaks volumes and he is a big man who moves well laterally.
Edge- CZECH REPUBLIC
Outcome- I see a tight contest early as each side feels each other out. The Czechs will try to slow the game down and drag out this contest into the later stages where they will try to score in the limited opportunities they will get. Portugal has too much talent and will run them ragged on the counterattack. If Ronaldo plays like he did against the Netherlands, he can place this team on his back and move them forward. Look for Nani to also get on the scoresheet. The Czechs will make it interesting, but look for Portugal to go through to the semifinals.
Result- Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1
About the Author
Written by Michael Jenkins
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from THE University of Arizona. I now reside part time in San Francisco, CA. I am a diehard Phoenix Coyotes fan (season ticket holder since Day 1) and a diehard Chelsea FC fan. I am passionate, energetic and highly grateful to get the opportunity to work in this business again.