Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic

Real Madrid forward Ronaldo capped an imperious display with a thumping header to seal Portugal's place in the semi-final



By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor from National Stadium, Warsaw

Captain fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo headed in a superb header from a superb cross to hand Portugal a semi-final berth as they knocked out Czech Republic.

The group A winners were largely thankful to captain - and goalkeeper - Petr Cech for keeping them in it a string of fine saves, as Ronaldo was also denied twice by the post.

Portugal kept the same team for the 4th match in a row with captain Cristiano Ronaldo leading a side full of confidence. The Czechs made one change with Erik Dirada coming in for his first start in a major tournament - replacing Kolar who dropped to the bench, so there was still no Thomas Rosicky who was injured. 



Cristiano Ronaldo is now Portugal's leading scorer at Euro finals with six goals, equal with Nuno Gomes.


If I said that in the opening ten minutes there was nothing to report would be a complete understatement: it was a dire affair with misplaced passes, poor touches and very good tackling.

Portugal had the first genuine chance. Nani took a quick corner, catching Czech Republic off guard, and finding Joao Moutinho, who had a optimistic go for goal, but Cech saw it coming. One remembers Maniche scoring a fantastic screamer from about the same position in Euro 2004 against Holland.

Portugal were having all the chances. A great ball by Moutinho found Ronaldo, but Sivok got across and put him off - and he shot wide.  

Portugal were now in command, and with the Czechs struggling to get out of their own box at times, it was only a matter of time. A corner caused confusion and panic in the Czech box - Limbersky couldn't get the ball away - Pepe headed it back into the box, and Ronaldo - onside - shot wide with a fantastic overhead kick. The Real Madrid man, then had a free kick that flashed wide of the goal.

The former Manchester United star - the star of the show (especially at Real Madrid) who got 60 goals last season - hit a post on first half stoppage time. It came after a fabulous ball by Meireles, and the forward took it down with gargantuan control and hit a stinging shot past Cech, but the post denied him. 

Despite all the late chances, it had been a poor start to the knock-out tournament with both sides sloppy in possession, making sure they were set up not to lose the game.

Portugal, however, came out all guns blazing in the second half. Ronaldo smacked a free kick, that beat Cech and hit the post - for the second time in the match - and the 5th time the Portuguese have hit the woodwork in this competition - a joint record for a European Championship.    

Their midfielders, Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho and Ronaldo were all now beginning to find space in behind. Ronaldo, in a free role, slid in the Chelsea man Meireles but he took it early and the chance was wasted.

United winger Nani, starting to find some form in this tournament, turned away from Limbersky and tested Cech with a drive thay the Chelsea keeper had to parry away to safety. Soon afterwards, Nani delivered an undefendable ball across the box, and substitute Almeida - who had replaced the injured Helda Postiga - fired in, only to see Assistant Referee Mike Mullarkey with his falg up for offside. 

After the Czechs had made an urgent change with Rezek coming on for Darida, Moutinho hit a stinging drive that was swerving towards the top corner until Cech dived across and tipped it away with a stunning save. 



Portugal have made it to the knock-out stages in all of their appearances, and have reached the quarter-finals of the last four.

Meireles played in Nani as the Czechs 'parked the bus' but Nani went for the delicate chip option and it just took a slight nick and precipitated the wrong side of the post.

But the Portuguese weren't to be denied, and finally broke the deadlock on 79 minutes: Moutinho turned provider and found a outstanding cross which Ronaldo - running in from the edge of the box - powered past Cech and into the roof of the net. The Czechs immediately brought on another striker, sacrificing Hubschman, but Portugal were looking for more. Perreira was allowed to run inside the area, but was denied by another superb save by Cech. 

As Portugal played out the final minutes, until the final whistle, when players, staff and fans erupted into mayhem. They will face Spain in Donetsk on Wednesday after their 2-0 victory over France in the corresponding quarter-final.



ANALYSIS:  Czech Republic 0-1 Portugal
Alex Byrom-  Deputy Football Editor from Warsaw

"So, they did it. Portugal are through to the European Championship Semi-Finals again. It took them a while to get going, as the Czechs defended well, but ultimately the best team won and deservedly so. It took a moment of magic from 'rocket Ronaldo' to get the deadlock broken but they could - and should have won by 5 or 6. They hit the post twice, and only Petr Cech's excellent saves gave the Czechs hope. Portugal vs Spain or France. An Iberian derby? Either way, I wouldn't write off Portugal; they're just getting started..."

Thursday 21st June                     UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine              Quarter-Final               National Stadium, Warsaw

Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic                                      KO 7:45pm                      Live on BBC1/HD1                      (HT 0-0)

Ronaldo 78



12 Rui Patricio-  6/10  An easy night; the Czechs didn't test him really. Kicking is extremely poor.  

21 Joao Pereira-  7.5/10  A great performance down the right by the young right back. Full of energy, ideas and adventure. Nearly scored as well amd defended well. 

3 Pepe-  8/10  Great headers at the back helped the defence deal with Czech's set pieces. A threat from corners.

2 Bruno Alves-  7.5/10  Found dealing with Baros no bother. Some headers went astray, but not anything alarming.

5 Fabio Contreao-  8.5/10  Worked up and down the pitch, linking up well with Ronaldo and defended well at times. Needs to improve decision making but a real talent.

4 Miguel Veloso-  6/10  A little dispondent. Very poor passing, and some sloppy play all round. Allwed to get forward more with no threat to the defence.

8 Joao Moutinho-  8.5/10  Game by game he is starting to become a major force: Passing is good, he can run with the ball and has a great footballing brain. Great display.

16 Raul Merieles-  7.5/10  Swept up play in the midfield, and utilised the ball well, got forward into good positions but final ball let him down sometimes.

17 Luis Nani-  7/10  Worked hard and ran at the defender, chased back and had a great duel with Limersky. Can deliver some undefendable balls and was a key source of rendition.

23 Helder Postiga-  6/10  Ran the line well. and tracked back. Went off injured and is definitely out of the Sem-Final.

7 Cristiano Ronaldo (C)-  9.5/10  Calm in possession and brought the team through the game. Led the line and was the main threat. Showed why he's up there with Messi with another excellent goal with a header. Hit the post twice with wondeful efforts.

Substitutes bench:- 
1 Eduardo (GK), 22 Beto (GK), 13 Costa, 14 Rolando, 19 Miguel Lopes, 6 Custodio, 15 Ruben Micael, 20 Viana, 10 Quaresma, 9 Hugo 
Almeida, 11 Oliveira, 18 Varela.


Subs used:    

Almeida (for Postiga- 39 mins)-  5.5/10  Held the ball up well but couldn't get into decent attacking positions to receive the ball. Not many chances to score and was off target when he did.  

Custodio (for Nani- 84 mins)-  2/10  Slipped amost unnoticingly into the midfield and helped to break up attacks.

Rolando (for Meireles- 88 mins)-  0.5/10  Not enough time to make a ral impact, but helped out in defence.


Booked:      Nani (25), Veloso (26), 

Sent-off:      None

Czech Republic:


1. Petr Cech (C)-  9/10  His best game of the tournament, showing what a world class keeper he is. A string of top-drawer saves - some a contest of their own.

2. Theodor Gabre Salassie-  7.5/10  Defended well down the right. Not his usual flair and ambition but will be part of this team's continued development.    

3. Michal Kadlec-  8/10  Giant in defence. Headed away everything in the box and held the defence together. Defended well.

6. Tomas Sivok-  8/10  Similar to his defence partner. Monster at the back and defended well against Almeida and headed away some crosses.  

8. David Limbersky-  6.5/10  Struggled against the pace of Nani but enjoyed the battle. Booked for poor challenge on Peireira. 

18. Erik Dirada-  5.5/10  Disappointed not to be involved. No suport and spent most of his time defending.

17. Tomas Hubschman-  7/10  Began sloppily by giving the ball away in dangerous areas. But he improved rapidly and was a key source of passes and goood defending.

13. Jarsolav Plasil-  6/10  No impact on the game as the Czechs struggled to attack the Portugal defence.

14. Vaclav Pilar-  6/10 Worked hard but couldn't influence the game in an attacking sense.  

19. Petr Jiracek- 6.5/10  Worked hard, and probably had the hardest job by linking defence with attack. Spent most of his time chasing shadows and couldn't affect the game.

15. Milan Baros- 5.5/10  Livelier performance. Did a lot more, a lot less selfish and worked harder; he knew his team needed him to. Held the ball up well and combined with Jiracek for the goal.  


Substitutes bench:-  
16. Lastuvka (GK), 23. Drobny (GK), 4. Sucky, 5. Hubnik, 12. Rajtoral, 9. Rezek, 11. Petrzela, 18. Kolar, 22. Darida, 7. Necid, 20. Pekhart, 21. Lafata. 


Subs used:     

Rezek (for Darida- 61 mins)-  2/10  Intelligent runs but with Portugal dominating, couldn't make an impact.

Pekhart (for Hubschman- 86 mins)-  1/10  Really not involved. 


Booked:         Limberskey (89)


My Man of the Match:    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)- Rating 9.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Milan Baros (Czech Republic)- Rating 5.5/10 



Referee: Howard Webb MBE (England)- 7.5/10
Attendance: 58,145



Match Facts:

Possession: Portugal- 60%                    
Czech Republic- 40%

Shots at goal: Portugal- 22                    Czech Republic- 2

Shots on target: Portugal- 8                    Czech Republic- 1

Shots off target: Portugal- 14                    Czech Republic- 1

Corners: Portugal- 11                    Czech Republic- 6

Fouls: Portugal- 6                    Czech Republic- 10

Offsides: Portugal- 4                    Czech Republic- 2

Assists: Portugal- Mountinho                    Czech Republic- None




Portugal head coach Paulo Bento:  "We weren't very efficient in possession in the first 20 to 25 minutes. Then we took control of the game, increasingly dominated, and picked up the pace. We showed great quality in the second half. We dominated throughout, and when you dominate, you have to be clinical both up front and at the back. We showed that at various moments in the second half. It wasn't so apparent after the interval that the Czechs had had a day's extra rest. After the break, we were looking to create more opportunities to shoot on goal. This game was very different to the one against the Netherlands. It was no surprise to us that the Czechs defended deep. At half-time, I highlighted some things that we could change in attack. I wanted the players to show what they showed in the final 20 minutes of the first half throughout the second. We knew we could create a lot of chances if they did this. We came back out in great shape, it was a great response in the second half."

Czech Republic head coach Mikal Bilek:  "We have managed to show our strength and character. We were disappointed that we didn't go through as we were really looking forward to playing in the Semi-Finals and the Final. We have played well at the tournament. We really prepared hard to stop Ronaldo, but he is player of world class: He was able to rise to the biggest occasion. [VladimĂ­r] Darida started because we wanted to defend more, and he's valuable in that regard for us. The fact he had only played twice didn't make a difference, I never doubted him. He performed well. Unfortunately we didn't have the ball possession we needed. It was as if we were waiting for our opponents to score. They were better than us and showed it in the second half." 


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