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Carry us to the semifinal

First semi finalist known after Portugal made it through their quarter final against Czech Republic. A solitary goal separated the sides at the final whistle and this is one of those times where we cannot dispute that the better side prevailed. For a match of this significance and importance, it would be easy to classify this under a percentage type of game but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Neither side went into the game looking to just stifle movement and play for penalties. Both sides kept going at other and in the end, it was more down the creative qualities of Portugal than Czech being less adventurous in their efforts. But the big players for the higher ranked team turned up and the difference was there to be seen.

Czech did have the better of the opening exchanges, garnering corner kicks after corner kicks but nothing came of it. This, despite them without their playmaker, Tomas Rosicky who never recovered enough to feature in this game. Czech put Portugal under the pressure and Paulo Bento’s side responded by lifting their game. They started to pick a few passes together with Raul Meireles spraying the ball with precise efficient which found the forwards but none of which went on target.

Cristiano Ronaldo kept coming in-field and that narrowed the space but alternatively, also provided space for Fabio Coentrao to burst forward into an empty space. On the opposite flank, Nani was not producing the same level of performance as he did against Holland, leading to many lost possession and misplace pass. In his stead, Moutinho shifted a bit more to the right side and he was ably supported by the full back, Joao Perreira. It was this combination which finally settled the tie with the cross and Ronaldo header.

Rather unusual, the score line doesn’t quite reflect the way the game panned out. More often than not, it’s big scores that gives a wrong perception of how the game went. This had Portugal written as the outright favourites and other than the first 10 – 15 minutes apart, the favourites exerted their dominance in this game. Petr Cech had plenty of saves to be make and Czech fans will be thankful to him, otherwise it could have been a big margin defeat.

Just two more games to go for Portugal and they will be secretly confident about their chances. There’s a solid spine throughout the team do not have anyone suspended for the next game. While it’s bad news for Postiga who got injured last night, it meant Almeida was his replacement and the latter showed he was more dominant up front and could be depended upon for the aerial route. Bento and his troops could surprise more people in this championship.

The quarter finals continue with Greece taking on Germany tonight and it’s as lopsided on paper as the game yesterday. It could potentially be another game which highlights the disparity between the teams that progressed from each respective groups. Russia and Poland could have no arguments for they could be handed a real beating if they qualified instead.

Joachim Loew has stuck to his main boys in terms of selection thus far in this championship. One look at the talent on the bench and you don’t need to wonder whether he will be having sleepless nights if anyone got injured or suspended. He will have a full squad to choose from for tonight and one imagines that he will persist with the same line-up that has got him this far.

That means Mezut Ozil will still be the main man linking up the play and providing the ammunition for Mario Gomez up front. I should think Boateng comes back straight into the side as Samaras showed flashes of the quality everyone once thought he had in that final group game against Russia. His physical presence should be nicely matched by Boateng.

Pivotal to the style that Germany likes to play is Bastian Schweinsteiger. Slowly but surely, he looks to be coming back on from. After the low point of that penalty miss in the Champions League final, Schweinsteiger has stepped up another gear and has been a calming influence in the centre of midfield for Germany. His confidence at the moment, proven by his desire to push further forward and support Ozil in the creative side of things.

As for Greece, it’s a tough predicament. As a team, they are obviously playing to their strength, which is to contain and look for the counter attack. Without their captain and driving force in midfield, Giorgios Karagounis who is suspended, it is hard to see who else can take over the mantle for Greece’s side. Their aerial prowess in defence will also not likely to be any advantage as Germany prefers to keep their play on the ground.

Just like yesterday, I’m going for another victorious team from Group B. 2004 was as good as it got for the Greeks and they are unlikely to repeat that feat. If they are not wary, a demolition job could be on the cards.

Merkel should enjoy this Greece defeat.

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