12 days of football have passed and now we have reached the knockout stages, specifically the Quarter-Finals. The first two Semi-Final hopefuls, Czech Republic and Portugal, will kick things off in the Polish capital Warsaw.
Neither of these two teams has particularity impressed so far, apart from short stretches of very good football, but in the end both of them managed to progress from the Group stages fairly easily - the Czechs even won Group A! They did so with two close victories (2-1 against Greece and 1-0 against Poland) and a convincing loss against Russia (4-1). Which Czech Republic will show up today is anyone's guess but if they want to succeed against Portugal the defense has to have their best game of the tournament. If the defense holds Portugal off the scoreboard until they score themselves, and force Portugal to open up, the Czechs have the manpower to score more than one. However, if the defense breaks early the players might be getting flashbacks to the Russia game...
Portugal, interestingly, managed the same record as the Czech Republic but unlike the Czechs they finished second (in Group B). Even though they were held scoreless in the opener, a loss against Germany (1-0), Portugal still finished the Group stages tied for second most goals scored of all teams participating, five. And they needed every one of those goals because both of their victories were won by the smallest of margins (3-2 against Denmark and 2-1 against the Netherlands). Much of Portugal's potential success depends on Real Madrid's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. He didn't show up in the first two games but in the third he almost single handedly clinched Portugals Quarter-Finals berth.
The winner of this match will face the winner of the Spain-France game in the Semi-Finals.