Portugal vs Czech Republic: 2:45pm ET
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Sixteen years ago, Czech Republic and Portugal met in the Quarterfinals of Euro ’96. Czech Republic emerged from that game with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Karel Poborsky goal. They would go on to finish runners-up to Germany—an Oliver Bierhoff golden goal providing the Germans with a victory on English soil. Much like this summer’s tournament, the Czechs opened with a defeat. They will be hoping that it is an omen for a similar performance.

A similar performance is unlikely; Rosicky will not start but is an option later on if required. Petr Cech’s performances are the focus of many a debate, they have been for some time now, but the clangers he’s dropped so far do not bode well leading up to a face-off with Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo, surprisingly, is currently topping Castrol EDGE Performance’s table with a 9.68. His performance against Denmark could well lead to someone questioning the accuracy of Castrol’s data, but having said that, Ronaldo has been consistently good in distribution of the ball, adding weight to Paulo Bento’s claims that Ronaldo, just like any other player in the Portuguese set-up, is given instructions to follow. The two goals against Holland also confirmed he has not lost his taste for blood.

Bento’s dilemma entering the tournament was the absence of an out and out playmaker—Danny from Zenit being injured. His solution was to play a functional midfield three that releases Ronaldo and Nani at every given opportunity. So far, the plan has worked. The only blot to his copybook being a defeat at the hands of Germany, who many believe will win the tournament. Surviving the group of death will have done wonders for the camps confidence.

The Czech Republic’s recovery from the 4-1 defeat on match day one was admirable. But, the fact that Russia went home early brings the quality of teams in the group into question. Both Sivok and Jarosik are reformed central midfield players playing at the heart of the Czech defence. Both players lack any real pace of note, you can expect both Nani and Ronaldo to attempt to take advantage of this. The fact that the Czechs recovered to top their group, suggests that they will not roll over for Portugal, but it’s hard to imagine anything but Portugal progressing to the semi-final.  But, while the bookmakers rate the Czech Republic to have a slim 34.6% chance of progression, this is soccer…

Stats so far:

  • Portugal averaged 1.66 goals per game and conceded 1.33, if you reverse the figures you get the Czech Republic’s averages.
  • Two players tonight are in Castrol Edge’s top ten performers so far. The first being Cristiano Ronaldo in 1st place, the second, Vaclav Pilar in 10th place.
  • The sides met four years ago in the group stages resulting in a 3-1 victory for Portugal.

Before, during and after today’s quarter-final match, post your rants, raves, questions and observations in the comments section below.