Great technical ability shown by the Czech’s all time appearance leader to execute a perfect lob over the head of Vitor Baia in the Euro 1996 quarterfinals. The Czechs went all the way to the finals where they lost to Germany. The Czechs and the Germans were flawless in their penalty shootouts in the semi-finals against France and England respectively, winning 6-5.
Portugal was led by Rui Costa, the team’s attacking force with Oceano managing the center and Figo, on top. Part of their golden generation. Their attractive style was termed “sexy football” by Ruud Gullit. The Czechs had Poborsky, Juve legend Pavel Nedved and Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League hero Vladmir Smicer.
The Czechs are not the same force today but in Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar they see potential building blocks. The duo will hope to bisect an unsung but tough Portugese defense led by Bruno Alves and the excellent Joao Pereira. Their challenge at the other end will be to stop Cristiano Ronaldo, already playing dangerous, and a selfless Nani, shining with his assists. Petr Cech will have to be at the top of his game.
There is historical precedence. Michal Kadlac will be hoping he can do what his father did 16 years ago. Miroslav Kadlac led the Czechs in that 1996 quarter-final fending off Figo, Costa, and Joao Pinto before Poborsky’s goal sealed victory for them.
This Portugese team is remarkably good. They gave Germany a run for their money, won a heart stopper against Denmark, and totally outplayed the Netherlands, in the toughest group. With the way they are playing it would be foolhardy to bet against them.