Czech Republic seeks repeat of '96 win over Portugal
Portugal will be looking again for a match-winning performance from Cristiano Ronaldo while the Czech Republic may again have to do without its influential captain Tomas Rosicky as they battle for a semifinal spot at Euro 2012.
The Czechs are hoping for a repeat of Euro 1996 when it beat Portugal 1-0, thanks to a delightful goal from Karel Poborsky at the same stage in England. Rosicky doubtful The match features two teams who lost their opening games the Czechs 4-1 to Russia and Portugal 1-0 to Germany but have found their feet and their confidence.
The Czechs went on to beat Greece 2-1 and co-host Poland 1-0. Rosicky, who returned to the squad after going home to consult his doctor, remains a doubt. Indifferent start Ronaldo, meanwhile, after an indifferent start and a couple of wasted goal-scoring opportunities in the late 3-2 win over Denmark, was back to his best against the Dutch, although coach Paulo Bento is keen to point out that Portugal is not a one-man team.
“We don’t claim to be favourites against the Czech Republic and it won’t be easy against them,” he said. “They’ve shown they have the ability to turn a game and now we must continue our work and the quality we have shown so far. Maybe then we can even reach the semifinals.”
Czech keeper Petr Cech, however, says the team will be aware of the danger of Ronaldo. “The last time I played against him was when he was at Manchester United,” said the Chelsea keeper, “His shots are tremendously powerful, and can shoot with both feet,” Cech said.
Perfectly equipped footballer “He hits the target in every situation, and is an excellent header of the ball. “He’s the perfectly-equipped footballer. “We hope he is not going to score against us. None of us want him to succeed.”
Bilek confident Bilek, meanwhile, is confident his side can nullify the Portuguese danger and again reach a semifinal. The Czechs lost the 1996 final 2-1 to Germany thanks to Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal and eight years ago went out to Greece on penalties in the last four.
“They have stunning individuals. They like to have space so they can use their speed and players like Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Bilek, a former Czech international who played at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
“They are world-famous players, so we expect a very interesting, difficult match, but I believe that we will enjoy it, deal with it and go through,” he said. The Czechs have a good record in the tournament, when as Czechoslavakia it won the European title in 1976 in a penalty shoot-out victory and came third four years later.
Meanwhile, the 1996 victory over Portugal will be very much in the minds of defender Michal Kadlec who is hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps. Miroslav Kadlec was also a defender and member of the Czech team which beat Portugal 16 years ago.
“Portugal are the favourites and if it ends up like in 1996, it would be a dream. We will do everything for it not to spell the end of the tournament for us,” the Bayer Leverkusen player told UEFA.