Portugal is favored. They have to be. While I shouldn’t insult teams at this stage by suggesting stone cold locks, of all the games in this tournament – even more than Germany vs Greece, this one is a lock. The Czechs will not take Portugal by surprise. To be clear, they got crushed by Russia, had 15 good minutes against the Greeks and won the second half against Poland. Not an awe inspiring performance.
Why Czech Republic will win
- Gebre Selassie will frustrate Ronaldo and Pilar’s quick movement and offense down the left side will put pressure on Nani to backtrack. With their wings blunted, Portugal will struggle to score up front and Ronaldo will drift inside where the Czechs can pack it in and eliminate space and time.
- Baros had a good game against Poland and harried the Polish defense all night. If he has a good game, anything can happen. He set up Jiracek’s winning goal against the Poles and the Czechs are hoping he can do the same tonight.
- Petr Cech has had a below average tournament with a couple of glaring errors. However, this is the man who saved three penalties in the Champions League final and one against Messi in the semifinals. Who would you bet on if this got to penalty kicks? Ronaldo has missed penalties in the semifinals of the Champions League twice (vs Barcelona and Bayern Munich) and in the finals once (vs Barcelona). He is not going to fancy the situation if it gets to that stage.
Why Portugal will win
- Nani and Ronaldo cannot be contained in the form they are in. Also, the effort to do so is going to blunt much of the wing back play from Pilar and Gebre Selasssie. Nani should have scored from Ronaldo’s set up against Netherlands and Ronaldo did score from Nani’s pass. When Ronaldo starts drifting inside every so often, he is incredibly dangerous as a playmaker and in drawing fouls that lead to free kicks. I expect Ronaldo to score on a free kick in the next two matches.
- Pepe and Bruno Alves. Yes, they have given up goals in every match, including three off headers. However, Baros is going to struggle against the two of them – he isn’t Gomez or Bendtner. Jiracek will also struggle against Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles who are the unsung heroes of this Portugese run – they have been solid in midfield.
- They are peaking. They can see the path to winning this tournament. Ronaldo is off his duck, they have had a late game winning goal and are playing to their offensive talents.
- Tomas Rosicky is not going to play. This is the stage when every team needs their best player to make it happen. Pilar and Jiracek are not going to be able to fill the void.
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Czech Republic 0
Ronaldo scores again and Nani finally slots one in as well. Only way the Czechs can win is if this goes to penalty kicks.