Both Portugal and Czech Republic suffered defeats in their opening games, but managed to win their remaining two games to advance from their respective groups. Czech started the tournament with a massive loss to Russia and seemed to be the weakest side after all first round games were played. Manager Michal Bilek quickly recognized the importance of starting Thomas Hubschmann as a holding midfielder and moving Petr Jiracek out wide on the right side. The move provided stability in midfield and allowed Jiracek to play wider in midfield where he found success in scoring goals. Portugal qualified from the "group of death" as predicted and explained in the Portugal Preview. Although the Portuguese suffered a defeat against the Germans, the team’s performance was promising and deserving of a draw, but the likes of Ronaldo & co weren’t efficient in and around the attacking box with their scoring opportunities. In the final two matches, Portugal would continue to create opportunities and improved on their efficiency, scoring five goals and registering two impressive results against Denmark and the Netherlands.
Portugal will have little doubt about their starting XI as manager Paul Bento will start the same lineup he used in the previous three matches with all players available for the game. However, with Thomas Rosicky ongoing Achilles injury, Czech probably won't feature the Arsenal play-maker in the XI again. The Czech did manage a result without Rosicky against Poland, but without him in the lineup against Portugal it could be a different story. He's a significant loss and Baros could play his 4th game without a goal, and without Rosicky, the fantastic wing play of Jiracek and Pilar may not be as dynamic. Even though all Portuguese players are fit and ready for the match, concerns remain for Portugal as well. Defensively they have struggled to deal with crosses within the flow of the game and the marking on set pieces has been horrendous. It is an area that needs improvement for Bento’s side if the Portuguese want to contend for the Euro 2012 championship.
Both teams will be organized defensively, have a tendency to play more on the break, and hopeful their brilliant flank play continues with scoring production. The Czech enter the match finishing first in their group, but with a negative goal differential, concerns regarding Cech's accountability in the goal, their play-maker doubtful for the fixture, and star forward Milan Baros not registering a goal in group games. On the other hand, although Portugal needs to improve marking on set pieces and crosses into the box from the run of play, the Portuguese enter the match with the confidence they could of won the "group of death", all players available for the game, and with their star captain Ronaldo, fresh off his two goals against the Netherlands, eager to continue his scoring form. On the day, much could dictate the outcome of the game, but Portugal has the individual quality, as well as, the team organization and unity to obtain the result. The journey in the Euro 2012 competition ends for the Czech on Thursday. The Portuguese will win to advance to the semi-finals and as they say in Portugal, "VIVA PORTUGAL!"