thumbnail Hello,'s Adwait Bhattacharya has a few lessons to share on what was learnt from Day 13 of Euro 2012...

Ronaldo looks set for Ballon d'Or

Just think. A couple of games ago, Ronaldo's performance at Euro 2012 was considered a disappointment. Decent enough in truth but far short of the Portuguese superstar's elevated standards. Now he is a man on fire and certainly someone who can carry Portugal to their first major title this summer.

There was something exaggerated in Ronaldo’s demeanour when he flapped his arms looking to the heavens for help after striking the post twice on the night.

On a night when Figo and Eusebio were in attendance, Ronaldo scored with a brilliant diving header 11 minutes from time to see off a stubborn Czech Republic side and take his side to the semi-finals. Ronaldo now has six goals in Euro Finals and had he not been denied by the post four times in Euro 2012, he would have become the all-time highest goal scorer crossing Michel Platini’s nine goals.

If he continues this top form, it will be difficult for Spain or France to stop him guiding his team to glory.


Absence of a quality striker for Czech cost them the game

Right from the start, the Czech never really looked to be in the game as they had only had 2 shots on goal. They were massively outclassed in every department of the game, and having a 30 year old Milan Baros in their line-up did not help their cause.

Baros has been poor in this edition of Euros and way short of his best for the Czechs, for whom he has scored 41 goals in 91 caps. He is no more the lethal striker he was in his Liverpool days. He has lost a fair amount of pace and does not provide much imposing force as a lone striker.

He isn't exactly the target-man for the Czechs as they dearly missed 6'7.5" tall Jan Koller, who had an impressive physical presence and was a constant aerial threat to the opposition for many years. Koller who is all-time top scorer for the Czechs, could have really made the difference had he been there as the Narodak are used to playing that kind of game.

Sadly that was not to be, as Baros looked very ineffective and often cut an isolated figure in the side's 4-2-3-1 formation. The Czechs' lack of another efficient striker in their ranks cost them the game as they were too heavily dependent on their midfield that did not turn up on the night.

Portugal's midfield needs to be more creative

For large parts of the first half, the midfield trio of Meireles, Veloso and Moutinho could not bring any impact to the game with lacklustre passing in the final third. They were instead left to deal with the likes of Jiracek and Pilar on the flanks.

Little changed after half-time, but Portugal made more of an effort to get midfielders forward into the final third and get Ronaldo and Nani into the game who were left to do everything on their own in the first half.
Whether it was by design or accident, their first chance of the second half demonstrated where the Czechs were logically going to be vulnerable.

Portugal's midfield was not creative as their passing lacked the final ball except when Moutinho darted through the right and assisted Ronaldo for his header and also when Meireles crossed to Almeida only for the striker to head the ball over. Portugal need more of this thrust from midfield.

Meireles' long rangers from 30 yards also did not help the cause as he could have opted to pass the ball around instead. Portugal need better decision-making in the final third, and the midfield triangle will have to be more efficient against their semi-final opponents if they are to have any chance of progressing to the finals.

The better team got through in the end

By the time second-half stoppage time rolled around, the difference between the teams had become obvious. Only one goal separated Portugal from the Czech Republic, but the disparity in talent, skill and fitness was glaring.

The Portuguese dominated 57% of the possession and had 20 attempts with 5 on goal as compared to only two by the Czechs. The Czech midfield missed Tomas Rosicky but even the Arsenal man wouldn't have been enough. By the 90th minute, Czech legs were weary and Portugal had only to play keepaway.

Czech Republic were outclassed in every department of the game. This was an unimpressive performance from Bilek’s side – they didn’t defend well, counter effectively or hold onto the ball for long periods. Their gameplan was unclear. Realistically, they’re simply not a good side as they used to be.

They overachieved by making it into the quarterfinals and that they won their group speaks volumes about that cluster's quality. Bilek can be satisfied with his side’s performance who gave it their all.

Almeida offers a greater threat than Postiga

Portugal has lacked a striker, who can force the opposition into making mistakes since the time of Nuno Gomes. Portugal lacks the punch in this area. Their first choice striker Helder Postiga started four games for Portugal so far, and yet had just three shots (one goal).

Hugo Almeida was sent on for Postiga and he sent the ball over the goal seconds after the second-half had begun. Another chance saw Almeida bury the ball into the back of the net with a header from a Nani cross but he was rightly adjudged offside.

Almeida might not be the most effective of strikers with his ball control, but his aerial threat could be a huge worry for any defence. He won a few aerial duels last night and that can be a key factor if Almeida is to start the next game if Postiga is ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Euro 2012 is officially the tournament of the headers. Cristiano Ronaldo's goal was the 18th header of the tournament. If that sounds like a large number, it is. The header count is already the highest as compared to in any of the Euros.

So starting Hugo Almeida against Spain or France would not be a bad option now. Would it?


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