When and where: The first quarterfinal at Euro 2012 kicks-off from the National Stadium in Warsaw at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.
Cristiano Ronaldo had only scored five goals in four major tournaments before his two goals against the Netherlands.
VIDEO Portugal 2-1 Netherlands: Highlights, Match Report: Ronaldo Puts Sorry Dutch Out of their Misery As Portugal Reach Euro 2012 Last Eight
VIDEO Czech Republic 1-0 Poland: Highlights, Match Report; Jiracek Breaks Home Hearts As Czechs Make Euro 2012 Last Eight
Preview: After Portugal and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo turned on the style to beat the Netherlands and secure their place in the last eight, it is they who start as strong favorites against the Czech Republic.
The two previous games had led to doubts about both the team and its star player, but suddenly everything appears rosy with Paulo Bento's side. The performance against an admittedly shambolic Dutch side should undoubtedly give the whole squad a boost.
It remains to be seen, though, how Portugal will cope with the pressure of expectancy that they will now at least reach the semi-finals.
The twin threat of Ronaldo and Nani was able to expose a close to non-existent Dutch defensive display time and again on the break, but they will have to unlock a much more organized rear guard on Thursday.
After leaving themselves wide open against Russia as they lost their opening encounter 4-1, Tomas Hubschman has added considerably more balance to Michal Bilek's side. Indeed, it is going forward where the concerns now lie.
The Czechs best display of the tournament came in the opening 45 minutes against Greece where Tomas Rosicky was pulling the strings at the head of midfield. It is no coincidence that since the Arsenal man suffered the latest in an unfortunately bumper catalog of injuries, at half time, the Czech Republic has failed to show anything like the same potential for opening up the opposition.
Rosicky has flown back to Prague for treatment on an Achilles tendon problem since his side's battling win over Poland, but it has been confirmed he will still only be fit enough for a place on the bench against Portugal.
Without Rosicky, the Czechs will rely on their two players drifting in from the flanks; the industrious Petr Jiracek and the clever Vacalv Pilar. The Wolfsburg duo has each scored twice so far in the tournament.
Both quarterfinal opponents have excellent recent records in European Championships. Portugal has reached the knockout phase in each of the last five competitions, while the Czech Republic are seeking their third semi-final appearance in just five attempts since becoming an independent nation.
If the Czechs are looking for inspiration they need look no further than their nation's meeting with Portugal at the same stage of the tournament back in 1996 where Karel Poborsky's famous scoop over Vitor Baia gave his side the victory.
Czech Republic (probable)
D: Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky
M: Hubschman, Plasil
Jiracek, Kolar, Pilar
G: Rui Patricio
D: Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao
M: Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho
F: Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Prediction: Whereas Nani and Ronaldo enjoyed the freedom of Kharkiv to break at will against the Dutch, they should find space tougher to come by against the Czechs. A Portugal side accused of being too negative in their opening match against Germany will also need to show that they are comfortable with the tag of favorites and taking the game to their opponents.
As opposed to years past where Portugal complimented their excellent wingers with creativity in the middle, there is no Rui Costa or Deco in this side making it easier for teams to focus on snuffing out the threat from wide.
It is on the flanks particularly, the Portuguese left, where the intrigue lies in this match and where the contest could well be decided. Ronaldo will be going up against one of the finest right-backs in the competition to date in Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Without Rosicky, an industrious Czech side relies heavily on the forward bursts of their exciting right-back, who not only poses a threat himself but opens up space for Jiracek. With Ronaldo not known for his tracking back, Gebre Selassie could cause Coentrao plenty of problems.
But it will also mean that Bilek's side will have to make contingency plans to prevent Ronaldo exploiting Gebre Selassie's attacking instincts on the break.
It is hard to see the Czechs' having too much joy against what is a fairly solid Portugal backline, though, and the tandem of Nani and Ronaldo should eventually prove too much too handle.
Czech Republic 1-2 Portugal
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