Portugal have confirmed what we saw in the first phase. They are the first semi-finalists in Euro 2012 and rightly so, confirming their assets of being solid but with threat, especially Cristiano Ronaldo. They now await their opponent who will come from the match between Spain and France on Sunday.
Portugal won basically because they attacked with more intensity and conviction than their opponent. After a first half that was just about even but uneventful, the second half was more decisive. The Portuguese side was more up for the match by being decisive, pressing high, having more shots on goal and with Cristiano looking to get behind the defence on several occasions.
Both teams again used the systems they had in other games from the start of the competition and the Czechs went with 1-4-2-3-1 and the same side except for Darida in place of Kolar, while Portugal used their traditional 1-4-3-3 with the same team for the fourth time, all well-known to everyone in their own country.
The most notable thing about the Czech play in the first half was their attacks, mainly on the right, the best of which ended with a cross by Darida (17th minute) and another by Selassie (27th minute). Both were quite dangerous but without causing too much trouble for Rui Patricio. There was not much more to the Czech offensive armoury. As for Portugal, they had a couple of runs behind the defence, one by Meireles (10th minute) and another by Cristiano (24th minute), as well as a shot by him, and these were their main efforts along with a great piece of play which nearly produced a goal. Ronaldo controlled the ball, back to goal, turned and his shot hit the bottom of Petr Cech’s left hand post. Postiga’s injury, in the 38th minute, made things a bit more difficult for Paulo Bento as he had to bring on Hugo Almeida but he didn’t have to change the system. 0-0 at the break.
The game was different though in the second half. Portugal attacked with more authority and determination and in the first few minutes we saw real chances to score. A free kick from Ronaldo struck the post again (48 minutes), there was another run by him behind the defence but he couldn’t finish (53rd minute). Even before we start counting the Portuguese opportunities in front of the opposition goal, we could see that at corners, which looked mostly for the head of Bruno Alves at the far post, they were up against 5 zonal markers, making 7 plus the goalie in the 6 yard box.
Continuing with Portuguese chances, we noted two for Nani (57th and 74th minutes) and a shot by Moutinho (63rd minute). Against them, the Czechs had two counter attacks, one through Pilar (59th minute) dribbling past two opponents and getting dangerously in to the box and another (78th minute) by Jiracek. These two were their team’s main players in attack.
The runs by Ronaldo from the wing inside bore fruit in the 79th minute. Cristiano got across the full back, Selassie, and with his head finished off a great cross from the right. The goal finished off the match and it looked as if it could be 0-2 rather than a draw, with only a timid corner coming from the Czechs.
Although tonight they had the initiative, especially in the second half, Portugal feel more at home playing deep with Ronaldo using the space behind the defence and this means they will be a difficult opponent for Spain or France if they decide to seize the initiative in the game.