Euro 2012: 5 Reasons Why Czech Republic Can Be Proud of Their Performance
The first quarterfinal of the 2012 European Championships saw the Czech Republic dumped out of the tournament by a brilliant diving header in the 79th minute from none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.
The first half was really even; it was a different story in the second half, with Portugal constantly pushing forward. It was a surprise, really, that it took Portugal so long to score.
The Czechs pushed Portugal to the brink, but it was the men in white who took the three points and a semifinal spot.
The Czech Republic can be proud of their accomplishments in the tournament, though. Here are five positives the Czechs can take home and be proud of.
They Won Their Group
Granted, they won Group A, probably the weakest group in the tournament, but group winners are group winners and the Czech Republic can count themselves in the company of Germany, Spain and England.
The Czechs weren't expected to go through—with Russia and co-hosts Poland expected to top the group.
That quite obviously didn't happen.
The Czechs can be proud of the fact that they silenced their detractors by topping the two teams expected in the quarterfinals and they can be especially proud of the fact that they got there by quieting a raucous Polish nation.
They Beat Poland to Get to the Knockout Stages
It's never easy to play the host nation in a major tournament, especially when a place in the knockout stages is on the line and a nation's pride is at stake.
The Czech Republic weathered the Polish storm and ran out of Wroclaw with three points, Group A and a quarterfinal berth against Portugal.
The Team Showed Spirit, Heart and Unity
The Czech Republic's critics probably had a field day after their 4-1 drubbing by Russia; the Czechs showed little signs of life in that game and Russia were definitely deserved winners.
Despite the horrendous start, the Czech's bounced back with back-to-back wins against Greece and Poland to win the group. In those two games, the Czech team was revitalized; they played with way more pace, skill and heart than they had against Russia.
They were also without midfield captain Tomáš Rosický for the game against Poland and for the quarterfinal against Portugal, but it simply didn't seem to matter. The Czechs wanted to win.
It was simply a joy to watch.
Václav Pilař and Petr Jiráček
Václav Pilař and Petr Jiráček were the stars for the Czech Republic in this tournament. They scored all of the Czechs' goals between the two of them and were bright in every game.
Pilar scored the only goal in the 4-1 loss to Russia, while Jiráček scored the opening goal in the game against Greece and the eventual winner against Poland.
The Czechs have a wide-man tandem for years to come, since Jiráček is 26—in the prime of his career—and Pilař only 23.
The Czechs Took Portugal to the Brink
Say what you will about the last half hour of the game, but for the first 60 minutes, it looked as if the Czechs were going to pull off the upset of the tournament.
They threatened often and efficiently, coming close to scoring the opener several times in the first half. Portugal looked nervous on defense and the Czechs looked confident going forward.
It was obvious the Czechs were exhausted in the second half and should have gone down earlier were it not for heroic defending by Michal Kadlec and solid goalkeeping from Petr Cech. Still, it took nearly 80 minutes for the Portuguese to break down the Czech defense with a brilliant header from Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Czechs surprised many of us by winning the group and playing Portugal almost to the death. The team should arrive home with open arms and cheers, for they defied many expectations.