Portugal played a rather poor set of three group games. They looked ineffective mostly against the Germans until the final stages of the match when (as conventional wisdom informs us) it finally seemed to dawn on them that squads losing their first group stage match rarely ever progress to the next round. They looked much more alive and better in the final ten minutes, but it was already too late.
Their last match with the Dutch was interesting viewing at times but had to leave any manager wondering when these Portuguese players learned goal-finishing skills. Did they ever? Chances galore to score, yet a still rather meager result against what has to have been the weakest looking Dutch side (in that match) in the last ten years. Vlaar and Mathieson paired up for what had to be a comedy routine for central defending, yet the Portuguese did not turn this into a three or four goal outright embarrassment for the Oranje.
The Portuguese have to be laughing themselves silly really. Their group stage was indifferent, almost lackadaisical at times. Yet here they now sit with the Czechs as the only thing between them and a semifinal in Donezk on June 27.
The Czechs are no pushovers, but they have weaker goal scoring capabilities. Thinking Milan Baros will score is just wishful thinking. The Czechs will do a lot of running again, but it won't amount to anything that counts -- like putting the ball in the back of the net.
The Portuguese will not be good at all except for the usual flashes of movement and possibilities from C. Ronaldo, but they will just do enough and they will be in Donezk on June 27.
The irony: The "Group of Death" was relatively easy to handle after all, the quarterfinal just the same.
Portugal deserved to win. They had more skill and their pressing was well co'ordinated and denied the Czechs many outlets. The Czechs' problem was not their approach to the game, it was that they just weren't quite at their opponents' level.
The Slovak commentators made an excellent point in noting that 7 of the Portugese starters are key players at some of the top clubs in Europe. The rest (I'm asuming) play in the Portugese league, which is obviously very decent as well. At the same time, they pointed out that three of the Czech starters either still play in the Czech League, and two more were playing in it till this January. It's a vastly inferior competition to any of those the Portugese play in and thus the Czech team is a bit short of the expertise and experience needed for a game like this.
Add Rosicky's absence (barely noted anywhere in much of the English-speaking media) and the outcome was fairly inevitable.
Ronaldo has been excellent in this tournament. If only Nani would stop being such a pouting drama-queen (or be dropped), I'd be right behind Portugal in the semis.
Not really a banner performance by anyone. Notable was, once more, Petr Cech the GK. I still have to think that anyone will fancy their chances against Portugal. Mark C. Ronaldo out of the game, frustrate him, and Portugal look very ordinary. And their shooting -- atrocious. Six balls at least blown well over the crossbar.
However, Portugal has a huge time and rest advantage over either France or Spain. They have a full 48 hours of rest (with the luxury of all being able to sit together and analyze the France-Spain encounter) prior to that semi-final showdown in Donezk.
It's really not so much that Portugal were better; it is that the Czechs (aside from that one Czech midfielder with the long hair and beard) were dull, uninventive, uncoordinated, riddled with skills flaws. Even their free kicks and few corners were hardly going to create a goalscoring opportunity. M. Baros flopped as I predicted.
One can only hope that the remaining three quarterfinals will offer some higher quality footballing and vigorously contested outcomes.
To say that Baros flopped is to imply that there was real expectation he'd do something. In fact, he's done pretty much nothing since briefly looking like an international striker back in 2004.
But I'd agree with your conclusions, just with a slightly different emphasis. The Czechs tried to mark Ronaldo out of it ; at times when he had the ball, there were five of them round him. But he was still good enough to find a bit of space in the box to score the winner, from what was a very good team move.
You seem to be saying Portugal weren't better but that the Czechs were worse, which is fair enough. I'd maintain that was partly down to their techniques (some of which have been barely, if at all, tested away from the limited confines of the Gambrinus Liga) not being up to the pressure they were put under.
As for shooting, that seems to be a common problem at this tournament. It was especially notable in the Ukraine-England game, with Ukraine the worst culprits.