Portugal overcame a poor a Czech Republic side 1-0 in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 last night.
The victory was achieved courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo header with just 11 minutes left on the clock.
In truth Portugal was the only team out of the two that ever looked like winning the game.
Portugal deserved to go through to the semi-finals. They completely dominated the game and the Czech’s looked like they hoped to catch the Portuguese out on a set-piece or a counter-attack.
However, Portugal kept plugging away and finally got their reward through Cristiano Ronaldo’s header. The Real-Madrid star had already hit the woodwork twice with earlier efforts. That took his tally of goals to three for the tournament.
Apart from the first 70 minutes of their opening game against Germany I’ve been really impressed with Portugal. Ronaldo may be the star of their team but there is far more to the team than just the former-Manchester United star.
Central-defensive partnership Bruno Alves and Pepe seem like a good pairing and are also a threat from set-pieces. Full-backs Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao are willing runners from their defensive positions.
They both have enough energy to be a threat in attack but also get back in-time to thwart the opposition attacks. There is definitely evidence that both were wingers earlier in their career. They have been one of Portugal’s best attacking weapons at Euro 2012.
I am divided over the Portuguese midfield. Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho has impressed me over the last few years with his use of the ball and vision. At Euro 2012 he has grown into the tournament and I thought he was one of Portugal’s better players against the Czech’s.
Moutinho is definitely the creative fulcrum of that central midfield and makes his team tick. The other two central midfielders Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso are more defensive minded players. I have never been a major fan of Meireles.
I have never really understood the value of having Meireles in the team. He works hard but so do a lot of other players. Veloso is a versatile player, who has also played at full-back in his career.
Veloso seems to be the typical midfield anchor man. His purpose is to break up other teams attacks. He does get forward occasionally but his strength is his defensive play.
This is Portugal’s strength. Wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are good enough to cause any team in the world problems and they are Portugal’s most naturally gifted players. Both now have bags of experience at the top of the European game and they match winners.
Striker Helder Postiga curiously has a better scoring record at international level than he does at club level. Portugal have been missing a goalscorer for some time, I don’t think Postiga is the answer to their problems.
However with Ronaldo in their team they don’t need the striker to be particularly prolific. The Real man seems to be providing the goals needed to win Portugal games.
I couldn’t write an article about Portugal without mentioning their main man Cristiano Ronaldo. The 27 year-old has flattered to deceive at international level but it looks like he has finally found his club form at international level.
I don’t think anybody could argue that he is one of the best players in the world. Could this be his year on the international stage to claim silverware? I’m not so sure.
Portugal will face either France or Spain in the semi-finals. Both will be tough opposition. I’m not sure the likes of Meireles and Veloso are good enough to compete with the French or Spanish midfields. And the game could come down to whom wins the midfield battle.
I wouldn’t back Veloso and Meireles against the Spanish duo of Xabi Alonso and Xavi(should Spain get past France). Ronaldo may be one of the best players in the world but it remains to be seen if his Portugal side have what it takes to become European Champions in 2012.
Can Portugal go all the way at Euro 2012?