Like a dormant volcano coming back to life, Portugal’s maverick Cristiano Ronaldo after two non-impressive opening games have just started to show some of his true colours for his nation. The Czechs were un-impressive to say-the-least as they struggled to create any single clear cut openings throughout the 90 minutes. As the game progressed it became clearer that the Real Madrid man alone is the biggest goal scoring threat than the entire Czech team combined.
Here are my ten observations from the match.
• It was one sided right from the first whistle rather it was anticipated to be one sided when reports came out that Bilek will be without his midfield dynamite Thomas Rosicky due to his chronic injury. Vladimir Darida is an intelligent player came as a straight-away swap but he lacked the necessary drive and skill to dismantle the Portuguese.
• Take a look at these readings – Portugal had 20 shots (five on target) overall compared to only two shots (none on target) from their opponents. Paulo Bento’s side maintained a passing accuracy of 83%, won 55% of aerial duels and kept a staggering 62% of ball possession. No wonder it was pretty one way traffic.
• Coming to tactical zone, it was a battle between 4-2-3-1 deployed by the Czechs against Portugal’s 4-3-3 formation which they used throughout the tournament. In fact, Bento hardly changes the starting eleven, playing the same bodies in six consecutive competitive games. With that formation midfield got cagey as man marking became easier.
• Whatever little threat we saw from the men in red came through Jiracek. He was drifting from the left to the centre. Miguel Veloso, the Genoa midfielder was given the task to keep Darida on check. However, the movements of Jiracek forced him to leave his marker in few occasions. Trusting the ability of Darida was no brainer as he didn’t have the necessary guile or technical skill to use this tactical opening as an advantage.
• As a result of this coupled with their defensive midfielders positioning themselves in tracking Ronaldo – who played most of the first half going forward from the centre-the Portugese midfield duo (Meireles and Moutinho) started to impose more authority from the middle.
• Moutinho with his cleaver movements was the essential creator from the middle in the opening quarter of an hour. Meireles on the other hand was wasteful with his possession and his passing was wayward. In the first half an hour he made only 11 passes with an accuracy of just 45%.
• However, as the game progressed they both started to enforce more authority. Meireles improved considerably who found space ahead of him to move freely. Moutinho had as many as 91 touches, engineered 70 passes with a passing accuracy of 90%. His Chelsea partner ended up with 66 passes with an accuracy of 82%. But what important here is both the midfielders created at least seven key passes during the match which could have resulted otherwise.
• Also, the movement of Meireles was noteworthy in the second half. This might be due to the forced change that Bento had to make. Postiga was replaced by Almeida, who was more static in his role but he did occupy the two central defenders’ attention creating space for others. As a result of which the ex-Liverpool midfielder could run on to the channels and deliver crosses from the flanks as well.
• One of the reasons why the Czechs were limited to sit drop and defend was the fact that Theodor Gebre-Selassie didn’t have much choice to go up and join the attack. Whenever he did, panic was created at the back. His cross from the right just evaded Baros’s sliding dive in the goal mouth. But most of the time he was very much occupied with his defensive duties, i.e. tracking back Ronaldo all the way. He even moved into the centre to keep an eye on Ronaldo. And here, Portugal could have used the advantage of the space created. Jiracek did well enough to mark another Madrid man Coentrao. When Ronaldo moved into the centre it left spaces for Nani and central midfielders to exploit. Limbersky moved up the pitch too but Joao Pereira didn’t overlap considerably as a result it remained cagey for a long period of time. It was once again left for Ronaldo to produce some magic from his gifted foot. He didn’t disappoint either.
• No one really expected Portugal to go this far. They started slowly and now carrying on the momentum forward in every single game. They were impressive against the Dutch and equally solid here today. However, they are a one man team and that one man is firing all the cylinders. If he delivers in the next match again, then Portugal might encore the heroics of 2004.
Follow Saikat Mandal on Twitter @SMandal87