The first quarter-final of Euro 2012 takes place on Thursday evening and it is the battle of two unlikely teams – Portugal and Czech Republic, as punters are reported to be piling on Paddy Power’s offer of refunds if Ronaldo scores first for the Portuguese.
Portugal were of course given a chance to progress to the last eight but were the outsiders in their group alongside Germany and Holland.
Czech Republic on the other hand were given no chance at all after their opening defeat to Russia.
However, both teams have improved as the tournament has gone on and it has led to them being one game away from a semi-final place. This is quite the achievement in itself, but neither team will want their journey to end here.
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Looking at Czech Republic more specifically to begin with, it really has been quite the turnaround. After losing 4-1 to Russia in the opening game it was presumed their fight for progression from Group A was over.
However, they have since won two games in succession – perhaps most impressively against co-hosts Poland last time out – and this has led to them winning the group.
The key man for them has been Petr Jiracek who has scored in each of the last two games. He will look to replicate this form against Portugal on Thursday evening.
As for the Portuguese, they deserve massive credit for progressing from Group B. After a defeat to Germany in their opening game, they fought back well to beat Denmark and Holland to book their date with the quarter-finals.
In the process, they appear to have discovered some self-belief too and this would have been helped massively by Cristiano Ronaldo’s two goals against the Dutch last time out.
Overall, Portugal will definitely be the favourites for this one, but Czech Republic – who are growing in confidence with each game – will push them all the way. It should be a tight contest from 7.45pm on Thursday evening.