Euro Cup 2012: Portugal vs Czech Republic- Preview
Zeenews Sports Bureau
Warsaw (Poland): With Cristiano Ronaldo peaking just at the right time, Portugal would go into the quarterfinals against Czech Republic high on confidence. After two goalless games against Germany and Denmark, Ronaldo started to feel the heat but a brace in the last group game against the Dutch gave the Portuguese the bragging rights.
However, the Czechs will look to reach the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 2004. To stop Cristiano Ronaldo will be job one for the Czechs if they were to proceed to the semis. They looked set for an early exit from the tournament when they lost 4-1 to Russia in their first match. However, victories over Greece and co-host Poland took them to the quarterfinals.
Both Portugal and Czech Republic have met twice since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Both encounters took place at European Championships. In 1996, the Czechs stunned Portugal's supposed golden generation which included Luis Figo and Rui Costa in the quarterfinal before progressing to the final.
However, in 2008 European Championships, Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and set up another one to lead Portugal to a 3-1 victory at the group stage.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles insists that Paulo Bento`s team can go all the way at Euro 2012, as long as Cristiano Ronaldo can replicate the blistering form that he showed against Netherlands.
Ronaldo, who missed a glut of chances in the Seleccao`s 3-2 win against Denmark, found his shooting boots against Oranje to set up a quarter-final clash with Czech Republic on Thursday.
"We`re all aware of the great player we have in our national team, in my opinion no less than the best player in the world," Meireles said.
"Everybody wants him to help, that was just what happened against Netherlands and fortunately he scored."
Meireles was an integral part of Roberto Di Matteo`s Chelsea team that stunned Europe to clinch the Champions League against Bayern Munich, and although he may be an unsung hero of the national team, the 29-year-old is hoping he can transfer his club success to the international stage.
"Nobody regarded us as favourites before the tournament," he added.
"Just as nobody regarded Chelsea as favourites in the Champions League. It will be very difficult, but it`s our dream, just as it`s the dream of all Portuguese people."
Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech was one of the heroes at the Allianz Arena, and his Stamford Bridge team-mate is wary of the presence that he brings to Michal Bilek`s side.
"I know Petr [Cech] very well," Meireles added.
"But I`ve not spoken to him. He`s very strong mentally, he`s one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and he has proved that."
"The feeling I have is that they`ll come with the desire to win.
"After losing the first game heavily, they responded very well to finish top of their group."
The game in Warsaw kicks off at 12.00 AM (Friday) IST. Live on Neo Prime.
With inputs from Goal.com