Czech Republic and Portugal will battle it out for a place in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 when they meet in Warsaw on Thursday.
The Czech Republic are one of the surprise teams to make the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 and they now meet Portugal in the last eight on Thursday, but can Michal Bilek’s side continue to exceed expectations and go further in the tournament?
The Czechs (9/2 – Match Odds) were long shots to qualify for the knockout stage after a comprehensive 4-1 defeat against Russia on the first day in Poland and Ukraine but, somehow, they recovered from that setback to top Group A.
However, they face tough opponents next and are likely to be heading home after the upcoming showdown in Warsaw.
The suggestion before the competition began was that the Czech Republic were an ageing side, short on quality, who were not expected to make much of an impact this summer.
They have proved some doubters wrong with two narrow wins after the Russia debacle and enter Thursday’s tie with nothing much to lose as everyone is expecting Cristiano Ronaldo (4/1 – Euro 2012 Top Goalscorer) to lead Portugal (8/11 – Match Odds) into the semis.
They proved they could cope in an intimidating final group clash against co-hosts Poland and came out 1-0 winners, with the influential Petr Jiracek on target, and they will need him at his best again if they are to hurt Portugal.
Unfortunately for Bilek’s men, key midfielder Tomas Rosicky is a major injury doubt for the quarter-final and was forced to return to Prague to seek treatment on an Achilles problem this week amid fears he will miss the rest of the tournament.
His replacement Daniel Kolar impressed against Poland but he may find it tough going against the likes of Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso on Thursday if he again has to stand in.
Indeed, the Czechs may find it tough going overall against a Portugal side who appear to be revving into gear and peaking at just the right time.
There was criticism of talisman Ronaldo in the first two group games as the Real Madrid ace missed several good chances in the 1-0 defeat to Germany and the dramatic 3-2 win over Denmark.
But the £80million-man put it all to bed with two goals and an all-round impressive match-winning display over Holland and now some are saying he could lead his country all the way to the final in Kiev on July 1.
Portugal boss Paulo Bento has fielded the same starting XI in all three games in the tournament so far and is expected to keep faith with his players once again in Warsaw, despite ongoing question marks over frontman Helder Postiga.
Nani, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao are all experienced campaigners performing consistently and Portugal remain lively outsiders for the overall crown at Euro 2012, with BetFred currently offering odds of 13/2 on them triumphing.
Bento also has good options in reserve with talented players Silvestre Valera, Ricardo Quaresma and Nelson Oliviera, but the side that has served him so well so far is expected to get another chance to impress in the last eight.
It is a side that has plenty of admirers and one likely to have a bit too much for the Czech Republic who face a last-eight exit.