Cristiano Ronaldo nods Portugal into Euro 2012 semi-finals
Czechs barely turned up – and Real Madrid striker could have had a hat-trick
Portugal 1 Czech Republic 0. Portugal are the first nation into the semi-finals of Euro 2012 thanks to a well-taken header from Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured).
After nodding his nation into the last four, the Real Madrid striker issued a bullish rallying cry to his teammates. Faced with the prospect of playing either France or Spain in the semi-final, Ronaldo said: "We know it is going to be difficult, but we are ready, we are confident. We are very mature, so we are ready for the fight."
There is no reason why Portugal should fear playing anyone, not when they have Ronaldo in their ranks; he is without doubt the form player of these championships.
Having scored twice against Holland earlier in the week, Ronaldo tormented the Czech defence in a tense quarter-final in Warsaw's National Stadium. Twice, the former Manchester United forward hit the woodwork before finally, 11 minutes from time, he ran on to Joao Moutinho's teasing cross and headed it down into the ground and up over the flailing arms of Petr Cech.
"We created many chances and hit the post, but it is brilliant for us to have passed into the semi-finals," said Ronaldo, whose Portugal side have five days before their semi-final encounter.
The Czechs were disappointing, seemingly overwhelmed by the occasion, and they barely managed a shot on target. Portugal, in contrast, have grown in confidence with each game and have every chance of reaching the final. Their only other appearance in a European Championship final was in 2004 and ended in a shock 1-0 defeat to Greece in front of their home crowd.
"We don't mind who we play [next]," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento.
"It was a lot of work to get to the semi-finals, so we'll try to recover the best we can to get out on the pitch in the best condition.
We have our aim: it's to win against Spain or France. There can't be any other goal for us."
Tonight's quarter-final between Germany against Greece promises to be a lively encounter given their current political animosity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be present in Poland for the game, telling reporters that she "hopes that it will be a very fair sporting event".
But Germany is expecting a hostile reception from the Greek supporters in the stadium. As the Berliner Morgenpost said: "Greeks want revenge.
Friday's match is more than a game for them. They want a night when big Germany will suffer."