Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Beating Ronaldo the motivation for Czechia, says Hasek

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 17 Jun 2024

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Overcoming Cristiano Ronaldo is among the main motivations for Czechia ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2024 clash with Portugal, says head coach Ivan Hasek.

Portugal have been touted as serious contenders to lift the trophy on July 14, but they first face group-stage clashes with Czechia, Turkiye and Georgia.

They will once again be captained by Ronaldo, who enters his 11th major tournament as their undisputed first-choice striker after being surprisingly dropped at the 2022 World Cup.

Ronaldo holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14) and joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) at the Euros, also scoring at a record five separate editions of the tournament.

At World Cups and European Championships, the former Real Madrid and Manchester United man has made a total of 47 appearances, the most of any European player, while scoring 22 goals and assisting eight.

Rather than playing down the significance of facing the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Hasek used Monday’s pre-match press conference to challenge his players to shut him out.

“We want to neutralise Ronaldo. Especially for our guys, they will remember this for their whole lives,” Hasek said.

“Ronaldo is one of the best players and they will be able to say they played against him and maybe they will even be successful.

“I do not want us not to say after the match that we played against Ronaldo, but that we defeated him.”

Czechia are appearing at an 11th edition of the Euros (including participations as Czechoslovakia), including their eighth in a row.

That streak began with the 1996 tournament, where they were runners-up in England. Only Germany (14) and France (nine) are currently on longer runs of consecutive European Championship appearances.

With Czechia tipped by many to compete with Turkiye for second place in Group F, Hasek says the key will not be how they start the group stage, but how they finish it.

“The most important thing at this tournament is the last game. So, the first game doesn’t really decide anything,” he said.

“All our 26 nominated players are ready, they are healthy, they are fit, and we cannot wait. We are really excited about tomorrow to start everything.

“When you see the pitches, when you see the stadiums, you see this is a really great footballing event.”

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