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Portugal clinched a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic to book a semi-final showdown with the winner of France vs. Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo proved to be the difference between the two sides, scoring the gameâ€™s solitary goal with a diving header in the 79th minute having earlier smacked the woodwork twice. The Czechs had made a flying start to the match before the Portuguese gradually asserted their dominance. However, it was a completely one-sided affair in the second half and the Portuguese deservedly went on to find the winner. However, HÃ©lder Postigaâ€™s injury and their wastefulness to convert the many chances created would be slightly worrying issues for Paulo Bento. The Portuguese in the end deservedly got their revenge for their loss in Euro 1996 at the hands of the Czechs, and it was their main man Cristiano Ronaldo that led from the front and provided that extra bit of quality.
The first quarter-final of the European Championships pitted the Ronaldo-led Portugal side against a Czech Republic team that surprisingly topped their group. Both the teams had a similar record in the group stages of Euro 2012, having won two matches in succession after losing their first one. Unsurprisingly, runners-up Portugal were favoured to win against the Group toppers-Czech Republic.
The Portuguese made their way through the group of death, winning against tough opponents Denmark and Netherlands. They kept the same line-up that got them through the group stage. With star player Cristiano Ronaldo coming back in form with two well-taken goals against the Dutch side, the Portuguese seemed very strong going into the match.
The Czechs made one change as Daniel Kolar made way for the attack-minded Vladimir Darida. The team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with former Liverpool striker Milan Baros the lone man up top. Darida was the attacking midfielder, flanked by the wily Vaclav Pilar and the dangerous Petr Jiracek, who has been in good goalscoring touch. Chelsea keeper Petr Cech was between the sticks and had the difficult task of keeping out a familiar opponent in Cristiano Ronaldo.
The match got off to a slow start with no real chances created in the first quarter of an hour riddled with some scrappy play in midfield. The Portuguese were hitting long diagonals towards Nani and Ronaldo and putting in crosses, meanwhile the Czechs were trying to build with short passes and using the pace and skills of JirÃ¡Äek, PilaÅ™ and Darida. Portugalâ€™s Joao Moutinho was first to test the goalkeeper, with a curling effort that Cech easily gobbled.
The Czechs were threatening Portugal with their pace and had a quick counter in the 18th minute. Newcomer Vladimir Darida did brilliantly to find space on the right wing and put in a teasing cross which was inches wide of finding Milan Barosâ€™ boot. The Portuguese wingers were growing increasingly frustrated with Nani exchanging words with LimberskÃ½ and Ronaldo with JirÃ¡Äek.
Cristiano Ronaldo thought that he was in on goal in the 25th minute only to be penalised for pushing aside Kadlec. Nevertheless, his shot was well parried away by Petr Cech. The Portuguese players let out their frustration of not being able to dominate by picking up yellow cards for two cynical fouls in quick succession. Roving Czech right-back Gebre Selassie put in a wonderful cross minutes later, only for Portugal's go-to guy Pepe to hoof it clear.
Cristiano Ronaldo had two off-target attempts after the half-hour mark. The first came from a Pepe chip into the box, which the Real Madrid star tried to bicycle-kick, only to miss the target. Then he got a chance to let fly from a free kick from 35 yards and he did just that. However, the ball curled away from the goal.
HÃ©lder Postiga then pulled up, holding his hamstring, and had to be subbed off in the 40th minute. Ronaldo had the final and easily the best chance of the half in the last minute of normal time when he magnificently chested down a long diagonal from Pepe, turned past the central defenders by flicking the ball over his head and hit an early shot, only to rattle the post. The Portuguese made a good come back in a cagey first half after early domination by the Czechs, however, they would be bitterly disappointed at that not being reflected on the scorecard.
The Portuguese almost took the lead barely a minute after the restart when a Meireles cross found an unmarked Almeida, only for the substitute to disappointingly head over. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo then had another chance to show his free kick pedigree, and was a post-width close, once again, from breaking the deadlock.
Nani then tested Petr Cech with a thunderous strike in the 58th minute, but the Chelsea shotstopper was up to the challenge, getting down well and pushing the shot away. A minute later, striker Almeida thought he had broken the deadlock from a fine header, only for it to be correctly ruled offside.
Pilar then made a lung-bursting run for the Czechs on the counter, and got past three defenders only to put his cross straight to a Portuguese player. Portugal replied with a ferocious strike from Joao Moutinho which was well tipped over by a stretched Cech. Meireles then had a wonderful chance after being teed up by Ronaldo only to blast over from inside the box.
Nani was the next Portuguese player to have a shy at Petr Cech's goal, after being beautifully put in by Chelsea man Meireles, only for his effort to be deflected just over by the outstretched leg of central defender Kadlec. JirÃ¡Äek tried to answer for the Czechs on the counter and did well to get past two players before crossing only for Rui PatrÃcio to rush of his line to collect the ball before Baros.
Cristiano Ronaldo finally broke the deadlock in the 79th minute with a powerful diving header which went past Petr Cech in a flash. The Captain showed great determination to get to a curling cross from Moutinho and was deservedly rewarded with his third goal of the tournament. The Portuguese decided that offence was the best form of defence, and kept the attacks coming with Pereira making a great run before firing at Cech, who did well to keep the effort out.
Moments between the goal and the final whistle saw long range efforts from the Portuguese, a penalty appeal by Cristaino Ronaldo turned down and Petr Cech coming into the Portuguese box for a corner. However, the score remained the same as the game finished 1-0 in favour of Portugal, who clinched a deserved semi-final spot.
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui PatrÃcio, Alves, Pepe, CoentrÃ£o, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles (Rolando 88'), Nani (Custodio 84'), Ronaldo, Postiga (Almeida 40')
SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, CustÃ³dio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela
Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): ÄŒech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Sivok, LimberskÃ½, PlaÅ¡il, PilaÅ™, HÃ¼bschman (Pekhart 84'), JirÃ¡Äek, Darida (Rezek 61'), BaroÅ¡
SUBS: LaÅ¡tuvka, DrobnÃ½, SuchÃ½, HubnÃk, Rajtoral, Rezek, RosickÃ½, PetrÅ¾ela, KolÃ¡Å™, Necid, Pekhart, Lafata
Score: Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic (Ronaldo 79')
File Photograph Copyright:Â·Luis Vieira
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Score: Portugal 0-0 Czech Republic
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