Ronaldo makes the difference
Czech Republic 0 Portugal 1:THEY WILL surely have to do rather better than this if Spain, or even France, are to be beaten in Donetsk next week, but for the moment at least Ronaldo and co will be happy just to have made it to the last four for there were moments in last night’s game when neither side seemed capable of making a compelling case for going any further.
Portugal, though, came the closer of the two and, as he so often does in these situations, their petulant Real Madrid star eventually provided the cutting edge they required to secure victory.
The pity of it all from a neutral’s point of view was that the goal came just 10 minutes from the end. True, it spared us what was shaping up to be a fairly grim session of extra-time, but had the breakthrough come earlier, Michal Bilek’s side would at least have had to come out and play a bit more.
As it was, they gambled on hanging in there and grabbing something, a game-plan that might have come to more had it not been for right back Theodor Gebre Selassie, whose inclination towards risk-taking had marked him out as a weak link long before his man-marking deficiencies became apparent.
Sure enough, it was he who lost Ronaldo for the goal.
Joao Moutinho made a timely charge down the right flank to overlap and cross for his skipper and the 27-year-old stole a good yard on the defender before heading past a helpless Petr Cech.
It had been clear from the group stages, to be fair, that neither of those teams possessed quite the swagger they did back in 2004 when the Portuguese should have won the title and the Czechs might well have. There is probably a little less steel about them too, although both generally defended well last night.
Miguel Veloso did most to keep his side out of trouble during that early spell of pressure with the Genoa midfielder roaming about from deep and calmly snuffing out problems in their infancy.
Around him, the likes of Pepe and Bruno Alves looked calm and composed and the only time Paulo Bento’s side really looked stretched was when the latter stood a little too far off Vladimir Darida and the 21 year-old curled a low cross across the face of the goal that Milan Baros couldn’t quite get to.
The Portuguese, by contrast, carved out a succession of chances as their width, generated by Ronaldo and Nani, proved a persistent thorn in the sides of Bilek’s team.