Those of you with a keen eye for detail will notice we skipped day thirteen. Perhaps UEFA considered it unlucky and decided no game should take place on the thirteenth day of the tournament. I for one don’t believe in coincidence, I’m far happier when I can concoct a good conspiracy and I reckon that someone in UEFA is superstitious enough to organise it so that no game took place on the thirteen day. Anyway, back to day fourteen which saw the first quarter-final take place.
Ronaldo versus Czech Republic
It’s not exactly the one everyone had been waiting for. You couldn’t call it a heavyweight clash, you couldn’t really call it anything. In fact, in terms of hype this game was almost un-hype-able. I say this safe in the knowledge that had the game been shown on Sky they would have managed to conjure up some old rivalry between the teams in an attempt to illicit more interest from an otherwise largely apathetic English audience.
The games main selling point was Ronaldo, as he was all set to take on the Czech’s. A simple task for a player as talented as Cristiano Ronaldo undoubtedly is. His only handicap? The rest of the Portugal team or so the BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce would have you believe. His commentary did nothing to aid a poor game and at times listening to him felt like being encased in a cocoon of badly phrased, mispronounced, banality.
The Czech Republic arrived in the quarter-finals after enjoying the luxury of a group with two mediocre teams in it, the hosts Poland and the Greeks, who thanks to the Russians going completely wrong also made it to the knock-out stages. Portugal had a tougher route, they beat Denmark and then the Netherlands and against the Dutch Ronaldo had finally found the net and some form, scoring twice in an impressive performance. So the stage was set for Ronaldo to lead Portugal passed the Czech’s with a solo display and a crucial goal… and that’s exactly what happened. It was the game everyone expected and it offered almost nothing in terms of entertainment, surprise or intrigue.
Portugal attacked, the Czechs defended, every time Ronaldo got the ball he looked dangerous. His ego fluctuating as his efforts continued to hit the woodwork, a common theme so far in the tournament. Would he get his goal? Would Portugal get through? Yes of course, it was just a matter of time. Had we been watching England, it probably would have been excruciating. Every England fan would have sat their watching safe in the knowledge that despite nearly complete and utter dominance of the game we would find a way to concede a goal and go out or worse still, fail to score and lose on penalties. Watching as a neutral however, I felt no such unease and when the goal came it was coated in a gloss of inevitability.
Finally one of his team-mates, in this instance Joao Moutinho put a decent ball into the box and Ronnie’s eyes lit up as he sprinted to attack it before powering his header down making it very difficult for Petr Cech in the Czech goal to save. Cech had been excellent for the Czech’s and had kept Ronaldo in check for most of the game, but once the Portuguese had found the net it was certainly checkmate for Cech and the Czechs.
The game was largely dull and uninteresting. The Czech Republic offered almost nothing going forward, had very little real quality in their side and had a game plan of trying to hang on as long as possible, which didn’t exactly make for a great spectacle. Portugal defended well and always looked comfortable, Pepe and Bruno Alves are a solid partnership and Fabio Coentrao offers a lot from left-back. The midfield didn’t do enough and it was no surprise that when Joao Moutinho finally got forward with some purpose they were rewarded with a goal. Cristiano Ronaldo was centre-stage, he was the class act on show. It was a captain’s performance from one of the world’s great players, should the other quarter-final go as expected then he will get to lead his country against the Spanish. That would surely be a classic encounter where absolutely no hype would be necessary and wouldn’t that be refreshing?
Highlight of the game: I enjoyed Ronaldo’s celebration (pictured above) was he pretending to be a tiger, or squeezing an imaginary pair of large breasts? I’m not sure but if I had to choose, I’d go for the breasts which I’ve found to be a good rule to follow in life so far.