Painstaking research conducted by someone else reveals that the Czech Republic have been the most dynamic team of Euro 2012 so far, covering more grass than incontinent cows. And while Cristiano Ronaldo spent the first two matches of the tournament suggesting that he couldn't hit one of said bovines on the backside with a banjo, the Real Madrid stallion found his range in spectacular style during his country's third group game against the United Nations of Holland, thereby compensating for Portugal's lack of a decent specialist striker and giving them the look of a top-notch side that is getting it together at exactly the right time. If I were a betting man, I would place a fiver on Portugal to win Euro 2012. Which is to say: if I had not lost all of my other bets so far, I would have some money left to place a fiver on Portugal to win Euro 2012.
"We've started to play very well," confirmed Portugal's Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles, who's starting to think his country could do what his club did this season by upsetting more fancied teams to claim glory, presumably with him missing the final through suspension. "Nobody regarded us as favourites before the tournament just as nobody regarded Chelsea as favourites in the Champions League," he boomed. "It will be very difficult, but it's our dream, just as it's the dream of all Portuguese people."
Portugal's opponents in tonight's quarter-final are also drawing inspiration from Chelsea, as the Czech Republic intend deploying all of their dynamism to park a fleet of buses in front of Petr Cech's goal. "We will have to stay compact and defend as a team," trilled Czech defender Tomas Sivok, adding: "No one can expect us to open up against them because their counter-attacks are lethal." The Czechs' cunning plan of preventing Portugal from counter-attacking by never launching any attacks of their own was made to look all the more understandable today by the confirmation Tomas Rosicky will not be fit enough to start, and that no friendly wizard has magicked Jan Koller back into the fray and renewed whatever spell it was that made Milan Baros so deadly eight years ago. Their plot, then, seems to be for Cech to prevail on penalties again. For Portugal's sake, Ronaldo better have been doing his banjo practice.
Something for the little grey cells: Hélder Postiga and Ronaldo are among seven players to score at three European Championships. Can you name the other five?
Czech Republic: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Hubshman, Plasil; Jiracek, Darida, Pilar; Baros
Portugal: Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Ref: Sergeant Howard Webb
this article on Theo Gebre Selassie (Achtung: it's in German) and to answer the question I posed in the preamble, ie who are the five players other than Postiga and Ronaldo to have scored in three successive Euro finals? Harry has got three others: Klinsmann, Henry and Ibrahimovich. Gareth Beale, meanwhile, suggests Miroslav Klose, while Sager Supedi reckons Alan Shearer and Patrick Kluivert are in the mix. Those are wrong so there are still two more to find.Harry Bronsdon has waded in early doors both to link to
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Simon McMahon also identified another one of the seven players to have scored in three consecutive Euro final: Nuno Gomes. So now there's only one left.
All hail Ritika Bhasker, who found the name that had been eluding you all: the seventh in our list of players to have scored in three Euro finals in a row is ... Vladimir Smicer. To recap, the other six are Postiga, Ronaldo, Nuno Gomes, Henry, Klinsmann and Ibrahimovic.
little compilation of gems from the man Ronaldo is trying to succeed as Portugal's greatest ever player.Have a gander at this
"Hey!" heys David Schulwolf. "You list Howard Webb as a sergeant? Isn't that a fairly low rank for a man who officiated the World Cup final, and may well officiate the Euro 2012 final, as england have about as much chance of winning as the US and A." Hey, take it up with the police: that is Webb's actual rank.
An explanation for all of you asking what became of the new MBM format: that was merely a sneak preview the other night, it will be properly "rolled out", if you don't mind, for the Olympics.
Alexander Caldin is no respector of national anthems so while the players were crooning away, he was typing this: "I liked your reference to incontinent cows covering grass like the Czechs; then realised that you were being somewhat tautological. A cow is always incontinent- it's not as if you ever see a solid cow shit. Rather like birds. Lucky birds are incontinent really, or else think of all the awful opportunities for appalling autoglass adverts."
There are five Portuguese players on yellow cards: Coentrao, Ronaldo, Meireles, Pereira and Postiga. Only three of the Czech starts are in a similar predicament: Limbersky, Plasil and Jiracek.
1 min: The first Euro 2012 quarter-final is under way thanks to a textbook kick-off by Portugal: is there nothing Ronaldo can't do?
2 min: A bright start by the Czechs, who confound expectations by launching a dangerous attack alraedy. It was led by Darida, who is making his competitive debut for his country tonight. A solid tackle by Pepe curtailed the move at the expense of a corner, which Portugal cleared without much ado.
4 min: Both teams are feeling each other out, as the saying goes. "Granted that Ronaldo was fantastic against the Dutch but I'm very surprised at all this talk of the Portuguese are a one-man team, and especially that Nani has barely been mentioned," spews David Wall. "He's arguably been their best player through the tournament and, were it not for the woeful finishing of some of his team-mates (Ronaldo but even more so Postiga) then he'd probably be heading the list of goal providers by some distance." Who exactly has been saying Portugal are a one-man team? No one sensible, that's for sure. And I agree with you about Nani, although Pepe, Moutinho and Coentrao have also been brilliant.
6 min: Jiracek gets off the first shot of the match, cutting in off the left to blem one from 18 yards. Pepe deflected it behind for another corner. "I think Alexander Caldin is confusing his bowel complaints," nitpicks William Peake. "Certainly not speaking from experience but incontinence is an inability to control one's bowels, as opposed to questioning the integrity of the resulting waste." I'm so glad we've started this riff.
8 min: Portugal mount a threat for the first time, massing numbers around the Czech box and trying to pick a way through. but the Czechs stood firm.
10 min: So far - and yes, I know the game is but a pup - the Czech's strategy has worked. They're clustered deep, preventing Portugal from finding a way through them and then counter-attacking at speed.
12 min: That's more like it from Portugal: Coentrao and Nani combined neatly down the left before the Manchester United winger pinged in a cross that required urgent evacuation. The ensuing corner was cleared as far as Moutinho, who smashed a reasonable 20-yard shot into the keeper's arms.
15 min: Plasil and Darida link nicely in midfield before their attack is snuffed out: but there is clearly a latent danger from the Czechs and as this game starts to open up, chances are sure to flow freely. Hopefully.
17 min: Fine run down the right by Darida, followed by an inviting low cross into the centre. Baros flings himself at it but can't connect.
20 min: This is tense. And the Czechs continue to look more menacing, with Portugal yet to find their groove. "My girlfriend has loyally been watching the Euros with me and doing her best to seem interested," announces Dodser O'Dool. "But she's not quite pulling it off. 'Oh wow, is that the Pepe? He looks so young!' she just ventured. After lengthy rumination I realised what she was driving at. "Erm, are you thinking of Pele?' I asked. She was."
23 min: Coetrao and Ronaldo one-two their way down the left before a cross from the full-back almost flummoxes the keeper, but doesn't.
25 min: Oooooh! That was splendid play by Portugal, followed by a splendid save by Cech! Ronaldo made a brilliant run, Moutino rewarded him with a wonderful pass and Cech surged off his line to charge down Ronaldo's shot from 10 yards.
26 min: Nani booked for a minor foul on Limbersky, who makes out that he's been hit by a truck. Moments later Veloso sees yellow for a genuinely oafish tackle.
28 min: Told you this would start to open up! The Czechs have prised open Portugal, only for Jiracek to be thwarted at the last by a fine Pepe clearance.
30 min: Solid defending by Limbersky to stop Nani from collecting a well-intentioned through-ball by Postiga. "In the few days before the Netherlands - Portugal clash, Dutch television broadcaster NOS kept showing this song," jabbers Michiel Jongsma. "Basically it was just a childish provocation. He seemed to pick it up well though, didn't he? II hope the Czechs haven't been so stupid in their post match build-up, as he apparently is quite easily inflamed."
33 min: After much bishing and boshing around the Czech box, Ronaldo attempts a flamboyant overhead kick from eight yards: his basic technique was sound, but the direction misaligned, so the ball flew wide.
35 min: A trademark swirling freekick from 30 yards by Ronaldo, except that it swirled several yards wide. Meanwhile Jordan Pickering offers this update on our entry at 20 mins: "Dodser O'Dool is doing his best to hang on to his girlfriend, after shaming her internationally, but he's not quite pulling it off."
38 min: Postiga has just pulled up off the ball, seemingly having snapped his hamstring. He's receiving attention from the medics but if it's as bad as it looks, he won't be playing on and Nelson Oliveira will make an early entrance. That should introduce a pleasing unpredictability to Portugal's attacks. "That's a great made-up story by Dodser O'Dool [20 mins]," snipes Chris Clough. "In my own 'aren't women silly' story, my imaginary girlfriend has remarked to me that it's very impressive that Darida has managed to simultaneously sustain a football career while also writing groundbreaking works of post-modern philosophy. I soon realised - she was thinking of Jacques Derrida!!!"
39 min: OK, so Postiga can't continue but it's not Oliviera who replaces him, rather it's Hugo Almeida.
42 min: Nani goes down in the box under a challenge from Limbersky (those two have been clashing all game) but the replay shows the defender did nothing wrong. "I'm following this via text in the post-natal ward as my wife and daughter are sleeping," reveals Bas Leach, who isn't letting the birth of a child stop him from thinking about the really important matters. "What I want to know is: is Webb a uniform (police) or detective sergeant? Poor effort to just list sergeant like he was in the military. On the subject which other sergeant would be the best referee? The only two that spring to mind are DS Lewis from Morse (well meaning but would miss everything and need the offside rule explained) and the drill sergeant from full metal jacket (as terrifying as an evil Collina)."
45 min: That was brilliabt by Ronaldo! He trapped a fine diagonal ball from Meireles on his chest, then bamboozled the defender with a drag back and cracked a fierce low shot past Cech ... but out off the base of the post!
Half-time: The Czechs have played well, executing a clever game plan, but Portugal's class began to overcome them as the half progressed and they were very close to taking the lead. The second half promises to be intriguing.
"Don't worry," calms Ivan wade. "If his girlfriend gets upset at the international attention given to her gaff, I'm sure Dodser will simply claim it was some other Dodser O'Dool posting."
Hard to please: "When Ronaldo does that 'looking to the heavens' business, does he think he's talking to himself?" splutters Andrew Enloe. "Does he think he has a divine right to bury every chance beautifully? Marvelous player, but get a grip man."
Corrections and clarifications: "I'm the American guy who told you what sound pigs in Finland make during an earlier MBM," confesses Rick Freeman. "I showed my half-Finnish girlfriend the MBM with pride, and she pointed out that it's actually 'röh röh'. I'd hate to misquote Finnish pigs to you and your readers, so I send this in the interests of completeness and accuracy. Please accept my apology." Shall we forgive the swine, readers?
46 min: Within 20 seconds of the resumption, Meireles presents Almeida with a glorious chance to open the scoring! But the striker headed the cross over from eight yards! "Why can't people just enjoy Ronaldo's arrogance, drama queen antics, skill, etc?" flounces Ian Copestake. "It's not like he eats kittens or avoids tax."
47 min: Pereira, getting farther forward than at any time in the first half, clips a dainty cross to the back post ... but no one is there to apply a finish.
48 min: Ronaldo tonks a freekick from 40 yards straight at the wall, where it is handled, giving Portugal a freekick 10 yards closer. This time gets it over the wall but Cech it skims the outside of the post! "Chris Clough's imaginary girlfriend [38 mins] may be interested to know that Jacques Derrida was a talented footballer in his youth and apparently wanted to be a professional; in fact, there's a scholarly article on the connections between his philosophy and football. I like to imagine an alternative reality where he and Albert Camus (goalkeeper) played on the same team."
51 min: The Czech threat has seems to hae receded, as they devote all of their energy to trying to keep Portugal at bay. "How funny!" intros Paul Griffin. "My imaginary friend just praised Johnny Heitinga for combining a football career with a phenomenological evaluation of the question of Being. Of course, he was confusing him with Martin Heidegger!! Do I win £5?"
53 min: Merieles finds Ronaldo again but, under pressure from the indefatigable Gebre Selassie, he was unable to keep his shot down and it sailed over the bar from 18 yards. Portugal are dominant.
55 min: The increasingly beleagured Czechs clear a corner as far as the edge of the area, where Meireles arrives to bang the ball over the bar. This is all teed up for a 1-0 sucker punch victory for Czech Republic, isn't it?
58 min: Limbersky falls to the ground, Nani nicks the ball off him and unleashes a curling shot from 30 yards. Cech bats it away to safety.
59 min: Ronaldo crosses from the right. Almeida heads into the net. The crowd go wild. And then they reliase that the ref had blown for offside. "Ronaldo and the rest of the Portugal squad keep staring up at heaven, forgetting that a) the roof is closed and b) they are playing a country in which 79.4% of the population is agnostic, atheist or irreligious," storms Jan Krcmar. "Do atheist nations usually win at football?"
61 min: The sucker punch was almost landed! Pilar went on a jinking run down the left and all the way into the box. With Baros baying for a pass in the middle, he tried to deliver ... but Bruno Alves got back to clear in extremis.
63 min: Portugal are penning the Czechs inside their own box but they still can't quite infiltrate them. Moutinho tries his luck with a dipping shot from 20 yards, but Cech tips it over. "Did anyone else on here notice that Cristiano Ronaldo increasingly resembles his own Playstation avatar?" squawks Michael C. Frank. "The way he stands behind the ball before free kicks, his despair at missed chances, the way he celebrates his goals - a textbook example of life imitating art. Oscar Wilde would have been delighted. By the man's posture, and I guess also by the man himself."
65 min: Almeida has given Portugal a powerful aerial presence since arriving. And if he ever sorts out his accuracy, he's be properly dangerous. He's just nutted another one over from eight yards.
66 min: Cech bounds off his line to intercept a cross intended for Ronaldo ... and absolutely clatters Kadlec, who now needs a blast of the magic spray. "Me and some of my imaginary friends were watching France v Ukraine when one of them suddenly got very excitable about how a master composer he thought long dead was somehow playing at right-back," warbles Omar Naboulsi. "We calmed him down and patiently explained that it was Debuchy playing there- and then it hit us! He only went and bloody thought it was prominent impressionist Claude Debussy!"
69 min: Ronaldo is omnipresent. Like god, I spose. He's just met a good Nani cross but his shot was deflected wide.
71 min: Pepe picks out Ronaldo with a cute pass over the top. Ronaldo rolls back for Meireles, who blazes it miles over the bar from the edge of the box.
74 min: Portugal denied yet again! After a patient and intrciate build-up, Meireles threaded a ball into the path of Nanim who tried to dink it over the keeper but Kadlec rushed a cross to apply just enough of a touch to send the ball over for another corner.
77 min: Kadlec to the rescure again, heading a cross clear just as Ronaldo seemed poised to convert it. "My imaginary talking pet alligator, Al, was surprised to find out that the current Marseille manager also broke philosophical ground in the questioning of existence," discloses Jason Deelchand. "Stupid Alligator, that's Deschamps, not Descartes!"
GOAL! Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic (Ronaldo 79') He's done it! A fine diving header from 10 yards after Moutinho surged from deep to collect a pass and clip a cross in from the right. Lovely goal!
80 min: So, let's see what the Czechs can come up with now. Might Rosicky be thrown on?
82 min: The Czechs can't get the ball. And after two minutes of knocking it about, Portgual rumble forwartd and almost stick it in the net again, Pereira bringing a good save from Cech. Alves sends a header over the ensuing corner.
84 min: Portgual move to shore things up, Custodio coming on for Nani. Meanwhile the camera shows lovely footage of Luis Figo and Eusebio going wild in the crowd after Ronaldo's goal.
87 min: After the Czechs t hrown on Pekhart in search of an equaliser, Meireles tries to wind the clock down by whacking the ball out of the stadium from 25 yards. Again. "Is anyone else annoyed by the way Ronaldo celebrates goals for his teams?" parps Bryan Tisinger. "When he scores, he goes right to the camera and doesn't go up to his teammate who gave him a great cross (like Moutinho for this goal). If a teammate scores, Ronaldo is nowhere to be seen, like he is jealous his teammate scored and he didn't (like when Valera scored to win the match against Denmark). Or am I the only person who is annoyed by this?" What I am slightly annoyed by is that we haven't see Valera since that excellent cameo.
88 min: Portgual sub: Off goes Meireles, on comes Rolando.
89 min: Limbersky booked, Portugal strolling into the semis. "My imaginary boyfriend was impressed that such a provocative novelist could display such instinctive ball control," gasps Philippa Booth. "How we laughed! "Welbeck, you mean, not Houllebecq..."
90+2 min: Scorching run by Coentrao down the left, followed by a cross to no one. Well, to Almedia, which is pretty much the same thing.
90+3 min: Cech comes up for a corner ... and the Czechs cleverly whack the set-piece way over to the far side of the box, allowing Portugal to launch a counter-attack, with Cech stranded in the Portuguese box! Pereira, alas, wastes the chances by running into the lone Czech defender.
Full-time: Portugal deservedly swagger into the semi-finals, where they will pose a real threat to either Spain or France. Ronaldo was brilliant but he was not alone: Moutinho and Coentrao were great too. The Czechs defended very well for long periods and, of course, did well to get to this stage. But they never looked like going any farther. "I was getting very pally with a German midfielder I thought I saw playing the other day," recounts Holly Ganschem. "Silly me, it was just an imaginary Freund."