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Euro 2012 QF 1: Portugal vs Czech Republic pre-match predictions

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Euro 2012 Match 9: Greece vs Czech Republic pre-game predictions

The Greeks have shown that they are a resilient team after overcoming being 1-0 and a man down to the hosts.  However, their defense isn’t as strong as it was in Euro 2004.  The Czechs on the other hand are nowhere near their past quality.  In a match of middling teams,

Pre-game prediction: Greece 1 Czech Republic 1

This will be a scoreless or scoring draw.  I won’t be surprised if the Greeks win 1-0 but I think the Czechs will battle for a draw thus keeping alive their hopes of qualifying going into the last match of the tournament.  Gekas and Baros to score.

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Turkey v Czech Republic – post game

A Tale of Two Halves. Turkish Delight. Bounced Czech. We Don’t Accept Cechs. Let’s Kahveci.  Any one of these could be the headline.  I choose – ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!!

I have never seen a major international tournament match finish like that.  The closest proxy was France vs W. Germany in a World Cup 1982 semifinal when France went two goals up in extra time only for the Germans to pull them both back and win it in penalties.  But that went to penalties and the Germans did not score the tying goal with two minutes to go. Yes, the Turks were pressing the whole second half.  However, they did fall behind 2-0 against the run of play on a very good finish by Plasil off a Sionko cross.  This after Koller blew a breakaway by not backheeling it to his trailing teammate and instead missing the near post with a left foot shot. This before Polak almost made it 3-0 by blasting a pass by Sionko onto the post and getting kicked in the head when he went for the rebound.  This game should have been over.

Instead, young Turan scored for the second time in two games to bring it back to 2-1 with 15 minutes to go.  CH12 is still feeling good – hey, this is the score I predicted. NOTE TO GAMBLERS – CH12’s predictions are brilliant if you can place bets for the first 88 minutes or so of regulation.  All bets are off once we get to the last two minutes of regular time and injury time. 

Now here come the Turks. However, when Cetin missed an open header from inside the six yard box to tie it up, I thought that was it.  But, no.  The second best goalkeeper in the world – Cech is behind Buffon (and probably behind Van der Sar and Casillas at this point) – drops a simple cross (don’t blame the rain – the man has played in England for the last four years!) for Nihat to poke it in and tie it. Well, okay, the Turks deserved the equalizer based on the game so far.  Penalty kicks it is.  But, no. Nihat makes a brilliant finish off the underside of the bar with Jankulovski trying to play him offside.  Looked offside to me.  Game over.  Unbelievable.  But, no. We were then subjected to Volkan pushing Koller, getting a red card and Tuncay having to play goalkeeper since Turkey had used up its substitutes.  You can’t make this stuff up.  All we needed was for a Czech cross to be spilled by Tuncay, Koller to score and then go to penalty kicks with Tuncay saving the last kick to put Turkey through. Half of Turkey might have suffered fatal heart attacks by then, so it’s good that that didn’t happen. 

Turkey is through. They will play Croatia in the quarter finals. Don’t worry about Volkan not being there for the quarter final – he’s better at saving penalties than normal shots.  He flubbed two against Sevilla and, while they were tough saves to have to make, should have gotten the second goal after having gotten his hands to both. It’s time for the bench to step up and they have the veteran Rustu Recber, who was so key to their 2002 World Cup run to play between the posts.

I said this was about matchups.  Nihat and Tuncay both came through. Turan came through. Koller came through (no Baros). Rozenhal came through.  Cetin was so so but by and large did his job against Koller.  Sionko was very good.  It came down to the keepers and, unfortunately, Cech made the big error. 

CH12 must be dyslexic and read the crystal ball backwards.  What he meant to say was 3 to 2 would be the score in the Czech/Turkey game and not the Portugal/Switzerland game and vice versa…;)  Anyway, that was a fun day.  Oh, by the way, the Swiss beat Portugal 2-0 with Yakin scoring both (I did predict they would score two goals!).  Thanks for hosting the tournament – we have some nice parting gifts.

Pre-game predictions: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 1, Portugal 3 Switzerland 2

Result: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 3

Scorers: Arda Turan, Nihat Kahveci (2) (Turkey) Jan Koller, Jaroslav Plasil (Czech Republic)

Result: Portugal 0 Switzerland 2

Scorers: Hakan Yakin (2) (Switzerland)

If Germany v Austria provides this kind of drama, we are not going to get to Tuesday alive.  BTW, both games have meaning, I believe, since if Austria beats Germany and Poland beats Croatia, Poland and Austria would be in the reckoning for the second spot in Group B.  Too bad they can’t then fly to a neutral stadium and have penalties to decide the tiebreaker… 

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Group A third round pre-match – Czech v Turkey, Portugal v Switzerland

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 

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Portugal vs Czech Republic – post game

Portugal won. Scolari still hasn’t told his guys how to play with Ronaldo – he still had to start coming deep and floating to the middle to get the ball. Deco had a better game with a goal and a brilliantly threaded assist (Moutinho regressed) and Ronaldo did finally score. It was a brilliant strike – there were five players in and around him when he struck in through the legs of the defender.  This was not going to be a walkover and it wasn’t. Pepe and Carvalho played average and Bosingwa and Ferreira had subpar games. The Czechs did play better – Baros up front instead of Koller gave Portugal fits in the first half. Sionko did eat Ferreira’s lunch a few times, including on the move that lead to the corner from which he scored and on another move early in the second half when his cut back pass flashed across the goal.  Too bad they didn’t go to him on the right wing more often. 

Portugal’s player of the match was easily Ronaldo with the goal and assist on Ricardo Quaresma’s injury time open net goal.  He also had a few blistering shots that Cech blocked.  Final rant to Big Phil – stop playing Simao.  He hasn’t done much in the last two games and you have Nani or Quaresma as a direct, quicker and better wing replacement.  On top of that, the man takes the short free kicks away from Ronaldo.  Enough already.  This isn’t Benfica or Atletico Madrid.  Also, Phil, (not a rant so it’s okay) you might want to start Almeida as Nuno Gomes is not doing enough up front.

Ronaldo – isn’t it much easier when you have Rooney, Tevez, Scholes and Giggs playing up front with you with their pace, movement, skill and the defensive attention they take off of you?  Not as easy now is it – and it will get harder against the Germans?  Lucky for you it’s going to be in the semi.  Portgual looking good so far to win the tournament as predicted.

Sionko was the player of the game for the Czechs.  Pity he couldn’t get his second header to stay down and couldn’t get his head on Ujfalusi’s header across the goal from the late corner. 

Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Czech 1

Result: Portugal 3 Czech 1

Scorers: Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) Libor Sionko (Czech)

CH12 is off to a good start for the day with the CR7 scores call and the Sionko uber Ferreira call (sorry, I don’t have the Czech equivalent of uber – so you will probably see it tomorrow as well)

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Group A second round predictions – Portugal v Czech Republic, Switzerland v Turkey

Portugal wins. Scolari will finally tell his guys how to play with Ronaldo – get him the ball as often as you can and then move around and leave him in space as much as you can. Deco and Moutinho will have better games and Ronaldo will finally score. However, it IS big Petr Cech in goal and bigger Jan Koller at the other end, so this is not going to be a walkover. Pepe and Carvalho are going to have to get on their pogo sticks. The Czechs will play better, but Portugal will put a lot more pressure on them than the Swiss (and the Swiss put a lot on them as it is). The Czechs need to start Baros or Sverkos alongside Koller. Also, I think a key mismatch that the Czechs can capitalize on is on the right wing. Paulo Ferreira is overrated and is playing out of position at left back – Sionko needs to eat his lunch and get those crosses in to Koller. This is going to be the best game in group A.

I hope the Swiss win against the Turks. My gut says that Nihat and Tuncay have better games and the Turks will score. Will Switzerland be able to respond with two goals without Frei? I don’t think so, but I think their will gets them a goal – so this is a scoring draw.

Pre-game predictions:

Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1

Switzerland 1 Turkey 1

Second round of group play, here we come. Now there is no room for error….

People – let me know if you are digging CH12 (way better than CR7 or CP3, no?) …

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