Story by Ben Steele
Portugal, or more accurately Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 other guys, became the first team to book their place in the semi-finals of EURO 2012 on Thursday after a comfortable 1-0 win over the Czech Republic.
The preening winger had hit the woodwork twice before the 79th minute when he connected with Joao Moutinho’s brilliant cross into the box with a header that sent the ball down into the ground and then up into the roof of Petr Cech’s net. It had been coming. The Czechs were defensive throughout and failed to trouble Rui Patricio at all. The game rapidly developed into a contest between Ronaldo and Cech, with the winger trying his luck from just about anywhere. Obviously that particular contest was eventually won by the Real Madrid star and Portugal will now face the winner of Saturday’s game between Spain and France in Donetsk.
As for the Czechs they go home, but with a few positives to take from the tournament. If you excuse their first match, a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Russia, they’ve been fairly solid defensively and in the diminutive form of Václav Pilař they may have found their future. Which is good news for the Czechs, as Milan Baros announced his retirement from the international game after the defeat and with Tomas Rosicky rumoured to be considering the same path someone will definitely be needed to pick up the slack, Pilař seems like that man.
However, the final question is how far can Portugal go? There is only one man who can provide the answer to that; he’s arrogant, has too much product in his hair and spends 5-10 minutes of each game having a strop. But damn, he can play a bit.