After twelve days of entertaining group stage action to kick-off the Euro 2012 tournament, the knockout rounds finally get underway Thursday in Poland as a solid Portuguese side will take on a rejuvenated Czech squad.
After the Czech Republic began their tournament in disastrous fashion with a 4-1 defeat to Russia, most observers thought they had no hope of qualification to the next round. However, an improved performance against Greece and Poland vaulted the Czechs through as surprising group winners, and they’ll look to replicate their recent form against a powerful Portugal team. Group A wasn’t exactly a stellar line-up of teams though, and it will be interesting to see how a mediocre side like the Czech Republic will contend against the impressive Portuguese.
The Portuguese certainly have to enter this fixture feeling quietly confident about their superior quality to the Czechs. Portugal surely cringed when they saw the initial draw for Euro 2012, and though advancement was always the goal, being placed in the ‘Group of Death’ certainly complicated matters. But Paulo Bento’s side played confidently throughout the group stage matches, and likely deserved a more favourable result against the powerhouse Germans. They were capable in defense, and scary on the attack, a deadly combination as the Portuguese enter the knockout stages. Making matters worse for their upcoming opponents, is the recent form of star striker Cristiano Ronaldo. After struggling through his first two matches, Ronaldo delivered the performance of the tournament last week against the Dutch, and should be able to dominant a susceptible Czech defensive group.
Czech vs Portugal Betting Odds:
Portugal (-130) / Draw (+260) / Czech Republic (+450)
Over 2.5 (+125) / Under 2.5 (-145)
Match Analysis & Pick:
It will be very intriguing is to see the disparity between these two sides come Thursday evening. Simply put, the Czechs seem like a fraudulent team that were merely the least mediocre side in an awful Group A. They looked abysmal against Russia, and edged out soccer minnows in Greece and Poland, definitely nothing to write home about. The Czechs played no teams anywhere near the level of Portugal, and if they are incapable of raising their performance, it could be a Portuguese romp in Warsaw.
However, this tournament does possess a lengthy history of producing upsets and in a one-game knockout scenario, certainly anything can happen, but don’t count on it. Though the Portuguese entered competition amid a wave of uncertainty, an admirable showing against Germany, and convincing wins against Denmark and Netherlands, coach Paulo Bento’s side has now emerged as a force. Add in the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has re-discovered his form, and it looks to be a long evening for the Czech back-line.
Expect Ronaldo to control this match for his side. The talented Real Madrid star should wreak havoc on Czech right-back Gabre Selassie, and will create loads of space for his talented teammates in Nani and Fabio Coentrao. Ronaldo possesses great pace and will create many opportunities for his team off the flank, testing a Czech defense that has a history of trouble dealing with crosses into their own box.
Meanwhile, the Czechs won’t only have issues in their defending as midfielder and Captain Tomas Rosicky is still highly doubtful to suit up against Portugal. The creative Arsenal player has been dealing with an Achilles injury, and without his presence against an experienced Portuguese group, coach Michel Bilek will be limited in his options at stifling the creativity of a superior Portuguese squad.
Look for this to be an open match, as both teams possess a lot of attacking quality and creativity on the wings. Though the Czechs have improved as the tournament has gone on, they remain nowhere near Portugal’s level and should be overwhelmed fairly early in the match. Expect the Czechs to be unable to contain the skill and creativity of Nani and Ronaldo, and have trouble mustering chances of their own. Michel Bilek’s side will quickly realize they’re not playing the weak sides of Group A anymore, and look for Portugal to cruise to a convincing victory inside the 90 minutes.
PICK: Portugal To Win (-130)