Cristiano Ronaldo's 79th minute header was enough to separate the sides as Portugal became the first team to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2012. It was a dominant performance from the Real Madrid forward as he had earlier hit the woodwork twice. But Ronaldo was not to be denied and he eventually converted a Joao Moutinho cross to break Czech hearts. We look at the lessons from Thursday's game
Last Updated: June 21, 2012 10:48pm
It was a disappointing performance from the Czech Republic and they can have few complaints with their quarter-final exit. Portugal were the better side from start to finish and any threat from Michal Bilek's side was sporadic at best. We examine the issues that emerged on a triumphant night for the Portuguese.
Such is the profile of the Portugal forward that he does not so much take part in a game as take over. Even in the early stages in which the Czechs did a good job of marshalling him, he was a brooding threat. As the game wore on, he became the central figure in the contest. Some players wait a whole game for a solitary chance but for Ronaldo the next opportunity never feels more than a few minutes away. Twice he hit the woodwork before sending the Czechs home with a fantastic header. Perhaps the lesson here was that trying to stop him by man-to-man marking is not preferable - better to focus on providing some sort of threat at the other end because in the end he will get you.
Although it would be harsh to characterise Ronaldo as wasteful, that was the overriding emotion when watching this Portugal side. They have had more than 70 efforts on goal in just four games at this tournament and that reflects not only on their impressive performances but also their poor decision-making in front of goal. Whether it is Nani, Helder Postiga, Hugo Almeida or Raul Meireles, it is not unusual to see Portugal shoot when they should pass and pass when they should shoot. It has not proven costly yet but you suspect tougher challenges lie ahead.
Fast start not key
Portugal have become the first team into the semi-finals at Euro 2012 and they have done so despite losing their first game 1-0 to Germany. Indeed, Germany were the only one of the quarter-finalists to have won their group opener. In contrast, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark and Croatia all went home in the group stages despite winning their opening game. The key to tournament success is to peak at the right time and perhaps Portugal are going to do just that.
But should we be too critical of the Portuguese? This is the fifth European Championship in a row in which they have progressed to the knockout stages. That is quite a feat for a country that had qualified for the Euros just once prior to 1996. Talk of a golden generation, the fame of Ronaldo and a sterile 2010 World Cup has led to a prevailing mood that this is an under-achieving nation. But for a population the size of Portugal, in truth, they continue to punch above their weight.
Czech game plan
The Czechs defended well as a unit and passed and moved the ball in attacking positions before the break. They looked to go wide as much as possible and stretch their opponents. But in the main, Bilek set his side out to stop the opposition playing and at one point in the first-half Ronaldo was surrounded by five players. Ultimately it was not enough.
Out of ideas
The problem for the Czechs was that their only thought was to defend and contain the talented Portuguese and once Ronaldo scored, there was only ever going to one winner. Some of the better players in this side are the younger ones and Bilek must now look ahead to a World Cup qualifying campaign. However, they will do well to even reach Brazil 2014 as they have the likes of Italy and Denmark in their group.