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Czech Republic vs. Portugal: Players Who Must Soar for Czechs to Pull off Upset

WROCLAW, POLAND - JUNE 16:  Petr Jiracek of Czech Republic looks on during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Czech Republic and Poland at The Municipal Stadium on June 16, 2012 in Wroclaw, Poland.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJune 21, 2012

The Czech Republic has become the surprise of Euro 2012 after advancing to the quarterfinals, but the Czechs will have to play even better to upset Portugal on Thursday in Warsaw.

After a 4-1 loss to Russia to start off the tournament, the Czech Republic scored victories over Greece and host country Poland in a balanced effort. The side allowed just one goal in those final two matches and scored three times.

Portugal lost to a strong German side to start Euro 2012 but came up big against Denmark and the Netherlands. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals against the Dutch.

Here's a look at who must step up for the Czechs to score the upset on Thursday.

 

Petr Cech, Goalkeeper

The Czech Republic last faced Portugal in Euro 2008. In the group stage match, Portugal scored three goals against the Czechs, with Ronaldo swinging one home.

Petr Cech will be vital against Portugal's high-octane offense. The Czech defense as a whole has been solid, but there will undoubtedly be some opportunities for Portugal's talented offense at goal. 

Cech made four saves against Poland in a pivotal match for the Czechs. He's going to have to be on top of his game if the Czech Republic has any shot of winning. He can't blow saves like the one he did against Greece.

 

Petr Jiracek, Midfielder

Petr Jiracek has been outstanding thus far for the Czechs, scoring two goals in the tournament. The 26-year-old is the Czech Republic's best player, and he must continue his success against Portugal, especially considering Portugal could get across at least two goals in the match.

The midfielder has the ability to step up in big moments, as he showed when he scored the deciding second-half goal against Poland to advance the Czechs to the quarterfinals.

 

Vaclav Pilar, Midfielder

Jiracek's partner-in-crime, Vaclav Pilar, has also scored two goals in the tournament. The 23-year-old has emerged as a dangerous player for the side and has great chemistry with Jiracek.

He's a bit inexperienced, which could come into play against Portugal, but if he plays with confidence, he has the ability on the pitch to make a big difference. He can't get pushed around and must attack like he did in the group stage.

 

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