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Portugal v Czechia: Ronaldo prepared to give everything, says Martinez

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 16 Jun 2024

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Cristiano Ronaldo is prepared to give everything in what could be his final major tournament as Portugal prepare for their Euro 2024 opener against Czechia, says Roberto Martinez.

The 39-year-old continues to prove that age is just a number, scoring 35 goals in 31 appearances for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24, and he will be a key cog for the Selecao in their quest to replicate their 2016 success.

Portugal cruised through qualifying and were the only team to win all of their group fixtures, and arrive in Germany among the frontrunners to lift the trophy on July 14, despite falling short at their last three major tournaments.

Ronaldo’s influence on the side remains despite his decision to leave Europe, and Martinez believes his presence is an advantage both on and off the pitch.

“We have 23 players. We create competitiveness and the game makes decisions,” he said.

“But Cristiano is prepared to help the team and give everything he can give. And there is no other player in the world of soccer who can bring what Cristiano can to the dressing room.”

When asked about Ronaldo’s international career, Martinez continued: “There are not many players who have achieved what he’s achieved.

“He is an example in many ways. To be the only player to reach more than 200 games for your country – that’s something that is not going to be achieved easily.

“What surprised me about Cristiano is that he always defies his age.

“After every session, the technical staff and I will be amazed that a player who’s achieved everything, who could have the choice of what effort he puts in training, is driven by winning, is obsessed by being the best, is obsessed about that perfection that he wants to achieve in his career. That’s contagious.”

Czechia are taking part in their 11th European Championship and will be hopeful of emulating their run to the quarter-finals of the competition in 2020 as Ivan Hasek takes charge for his first tournament.

The 60-year-old understands the enormity of the task ahead of his side, believing Tuesday’s encounter will be a valuable experience for his players when they come up against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“It’s not just Ronaldo. If you take a look at the team, it’s clear to see that many of their players play for some of the best clubs in the world,” said Hasek.

“They are dangerous. We need to prepare thoroughly. It’s also important to know and understand their strengths and weaknesses, which I will keep to myself.

“Although I believe we can play against any team, Portugal do have dominant strengths. It would be quite an experience for any coach [to play against Ronaldo] because he is one of the best players in history.

“It’s a valuable experience for anyone to play against him and I am not the only one looking forward to it.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo

Since 1972, Ronaldo has scored or assisted twice as many goals as any other player at the Euros, with 20 in total (14 goals, 6 assists), 10 more than Michel Platini who is in second.

The veteran forward holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the European Championships. Ronaldo is also the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments, with 47.

Czechia – Patrik Schick

Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia’s six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a Euro tournament, after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition.

The 28-year-old scored seven goals in 20 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen as they secured a maiden Bundesliga title last term, just outperforming his xG by 0.96.

MATCH PREDICTION – PORTUGAL WIN

Portugal arrive in Germany as one of the favourites to secure a second Euros title following their maiden success in 2016, and their qualifying campaign suggests they have what it takes.

Martinez’s side were the only team to win all of their games to make their ninth appearance at the tournament, scoring more goals than any other team (36) while attaining the best defensive record (two goals conceded in 10 games).

Portugal are also the only team to reach the knockout stages of the Euros at each of the last seven editions, a run stretching back to the 1996 tournament, and have always emerged from the group stages when appearing at the competition.

Czechia are hoping to secure their first victory over their opponents since their maiden meeting at Euro 1996, with Karel Poborsky’s goal sealing their place in the semi-finals.

Only two of the Czechs’ last 24 matches at the Euros have ended in a draw (10 wins, 12 defeats), with both coming against Croatia during the group stages of the 2016 and 2020 editions of the tournament.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Portugal – 66.2%

Czechia – 17.9%

Draw – 15.9%

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

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