Portugal are through as winners of Group A and Switzerland are out with two losses against Turkey and Czech Republic. The winner of the Turkey/Czech Republic game goes through to the next round to play Croatia. They are even on points, goal difference and goals scored, so if it is a draw at regular time, there will be penalties to determine the winner.
The main game is about matchups. Both teams play well collectively, have good technical skill, are tough to break down defensively, have had recent success on the world/Euro stage and strikers who are good but yet to set the tournament alight. Czech Republic vs Turkey. Petr Cech vs Volkan Demirel in goal. Tuncay and Nihat vs Koller and Baros (and Coach Brueckner needs to start both of them) up front. Servet Cetin vs Rozenahl at center back. Turan vs Sionko at attacking midfield. All key matchups that need to be contested. We need to see Altintop step up for the Turks – he has too much talent to not have an impact. This is not going to penalties much as that would be highly entertaining given Demirel’s heroics for Fener against Sevilla in the Champions League and Cech’s participation in one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts in recent memory in the 2008 Champions League Final. I predict a Czech Republic victory in a close game. Even if it goes to penalties, I will pick the Czechs to win.
“I will make about five changes before the match and the standard three (substitutions) during it,” said Scolari. I wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland does the same to blood some of the younger players. So it’s tough to call this one with the Swiss probably desperate to win at least one match at home. That said, I think the Portugese bench players who start will be desperate to impress Scolari, so the intensity will be even higher. I predict a Portugal win with Nani and Almeida on the scoreboard.
Pre-game predictions: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 1
Portugal 3 Switzerland 2