The first quarterfinal of Euro 2012 is set to get underway Thursday afternoon when Czech Republic takes on the mercurial Ronaldo and the rest of his Portugal side.
There are two big questions that people are asking about these teams following the group stage: Will Tomas Rosicky play for the Czechs? And what will Ronaldo do for an encore after a memorable outing against the Dutch?
Date: Thursday, June 21
Time: 2:45 P.M. EST
Live Stream: ESPN3
TV Info: ESPN
For two teams that started off the tournament with a loss, they are certainly happy to be here. Portugal is being seen by many as the prohibitive favorites in this game, but one never can tell what will happen in soccer. The beauty of the sport is that a team can dominate possession 70/30 or so, but one mistake can completely change the complexion of the contest.
Rosicky is the key for the Czechs, as he is the captain and the heart and soul of this team. Without him, I don't see Czech Republic being able to pull off this upset.
At the same time, Ronaldo must be close to as good as he was against the Netherlands, instead of reverting back to his usual form in major international competitions.
Expect a close game throughout, with Nani scoring a late goal for Portugal to seal the win.
Players to Watch: Portugal- Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Hugo Almeida: Coming off a two-goal game against the Netherlands, expect the Czechs to focus a big part of their defense around containing Ronaldo and not allowing him to get his chances. This may well open up the field for other attackers such as Nani and Hugo Almeida, who could make the difference in what is expected to be a close game.
Czech Republic- Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Vaclav Pilar- If Rosicky plays, he will be the biggest key for the underdog. His playmaking abilities can create quality chances for the sometimes stagnant Czech Republic offense. If Rosicky doesn't play, the majority of the pressure will fall on Vaclav Pilar who was spectacular in the group stage, scoring two goals in three games.
As for Cech, he is one of the world's best netminders and must be on top of his game in order for the Czechs to remain competitive.
Keys to the Game: Portugal- What does the sometimes mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo do for an encore?
Can the other offensive players step up and create scoring opportunities?
Czech Republic- Which Petr Cech will show up?
Does Tomas Rosicky play? If so, how close is he to 100 percent?
If Rosicky doesn't play, must find a way to get the ball to Pilar and Petr Jiracek.
Prediction: Portugal 2, Czech Republic 1