Euro 2012: Q1 Preview: Czech Rep. vs Portugal

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Euro 2012: Q1 Preview: Czech Rep. vs Portugal
Warsaw, Jun 20: The first quarter-final of Euro 2012 between the Czech Republic and Portugal marks their reunion in previous European Championships back in Euro 1996 and 2008.

The Czechs famously won 16 years ago thanks to a Karel Poborsky goal and will aim to repeat their '96 heroics despite a 3-1 loss during the group stage of Euro 2008.

The Narodak recovered from a humiliating 4-1 opening loss against Russia to eventually top the Group after victories against Poland and Greece. Similar to Euro 1996, the Czechs qualified with a negative goal difference.

Portugal too, began their Euro 2012 campaign with a loss to Germany. But Paulo Bento's men managed a narrow 3-2 win against Denmark while Netherlands were eliminated courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo's double strike.

The Czechs are playing their third quarter-finals and are yet to lose after victories in 1996 over Portugal and in 2004, when they beat Denmark. Meanwhile, Portugal have made it to the quaterfinals five times including two wins and two losses. The last time they won was in 2000 (vs Turkey) and 2004 (vs England).

Two teams packed with talent and rich Euro history will battle it out to make it to the last four. The Czechs, criticised for their loss to Russia, will be confident when they clash against the likes of Ronaldo, Nani and Raul Mereiles.

However, the Czech back-line will be tested when Ronaldo tries to fly down the left wing, while Nani can pose similar threats on the other channel. Czech right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie will be given the task to hault Ronaldo's run while Fabio Coentrao will look to open gaps with his forward movement.

Michal Bilec's men will miss their inspiring captain and play-maker Tomas Rosicky who suffered an achilles injury during the 2-1 victory over Greece. The Czechs, however, will stick to their tactics of playing five midfielders but the lone striker Milan Baros is yet to fire.

Meanwhile, all four goals during the Group stage have been scored by two midfielders Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek. Both scored two early goals to down Greece while Jiracek scored the winner against Poland.

In-form Portuguese star Ronaldo fired two goals to eliminate World Cup runners-up Netherlands from 'The Group of Death'. After losing to Germany in their opening encounter, Bento's men fought back to win 3-2 against the Danes.

Real Madrid defender Pepe opened the scoring while striker Helder Postiga gave Portugal a two-goal advantage. Super-sub Varela's late strike sealed an important victory for Portugal after Nicklas Bentdner's double.

Except for Rosicky, who is doubtful due to injury, both teams are expected to retain the same line-up as Portugal will look to go all-attack with 4-3-3 formation while the Czechs will settle to their 4-5-1 combination.

Players to watch out for are Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar. All four play in attacking midfield roles mainly operating on either flanks. Pilar is likely to challenge Nani while the combination of Jiracek and Gebre Selassie will look to stop Ronaldo.

Probable Line-ups:

Czech Republic: Cech-G. Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky-Hubschman, Plasil-Jiracek, Kolar, Pilar-Baros.

Portugal: Rui Patricio-Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao-Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho-Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo

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