Czechs warned to give Portugal no quarter
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Michal Bílek has warned the Czech Republic that Portugal "will punish us" if they lose focus in Thursday's quarter-final, while Paulo Bento's birthday wish is to spread joy back home.
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Michal Bílek is determined the Czech Republic will not repeat the mistakes of their opening game of UEFA EURO 2012 when they face the formidable attacking potential of Portugal in Thursday's Warsaw quarter-final.
Bílek's debut in the dugout at a major finals ended with a 4-1 defeat by Russia, the Czech Republic's worst ever start at this level. Bílek readjusted, and was rewarded with enhanced solidity and, more significantly, back-to-back wins. With Portugal boasting a blinding array of talent going forward, the Czech coach now plans to batten down the hatches still tighter.
"We know Portugal have dangerous players in midfield and up front, such as Nani, Hélder Postiga and [Cristiano] Ronaldo. We have that in mind, and we'll adjust our tactics to be more defensive," said Bílek. "We can't play like we did against Russia. We gave them space and they punished us. Nani and Ronaldo will punish us if we do the same thing again, and we don't want to repeat the first match."
While Bílek will retain the back four that provided the platform for the 2-1 success against Greece and decisive 1-0 victory over co-hosts Poland, he is hoping Tomáš Rosický's Achilles tendon problem will have healed sufficiently to allow the creative midfielder to return. However, having secured their place in the last eight without the Arsenal FC man, Bílek has faith his squad can compensate once again.
"During qualifying we put together a team. We don't have any great stars, except for Tomáš Rosický and Petr Čech. The team spirit is excellent, and if we defeat Portugal it will be thanks to this team."
The former international midfielder also drew parallels with EURO '96, when a largely unknown Czech side beat a star-studded Portuguese lineup at the same stage of the competition. "The situation is similar. They are favourites. They have strong individuals and a strong team, but if we repeat our performances in the previous two games, we have a chance of going through."
Portugal will no doubt read more into their 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in the group stage at UEFA EURO 2008. Like their opponents, Paulo Bento's men lost their opening group match before registering back-to-back victories, and the coach wants his charges to continue in the same vein come what may.
"In adverse moments, we have to try to stay faithful to our playing style. We have to keep a cool head, stay focused and we'll see what our opponents present us with on the pitch," said Bento, who is likely to deploy the same XI he has selected for his last five competitive fixtures, despite the Czechs having enjoyed 24 hours' more rest. "I think a team that played against Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands like we did will not have any problems with their mental recovery. The physical recovery has been good too."
The squad's mood will have been further lifted by Bento, who smiled when he was serenaded by journalists on his 43rd birthday. "I will try to transform this individual happiness into a collective happiness," he said. "But my greatest wish is that this happiness will be for all the Portuguese people after the game tomorrow."