Today's game was a good chance for young players to watch and learn the importance of executing a gameplan. Both teams knew each other, had days to review film and came out focused towards doing exactly that.
In the first half, we were able to see just what each plan was. For the Czech Republic, their coach, Coach Michal Bilek, decided to make sure that Portugal would have to win with someone other than Cristiano Ronaldo making the shots for them. Portugal always had defenders around Ronaldo in hopes that he would turn into the frustrated player we saw in their Germany game and not the confident Real Madrid scoring machine we saw in their game with Holland. If the Czech's could do that, then perhaps they may have a chance if they could get to a shootout.
Coach Paulo Bento for Portugal did not feel that they needed to play directly to Cristiano, but had to calmly attack and wait patiently for the Czech's to make a mistake. 90 minutes is a long time and 120 minutes would be an eternity for the Republic to have to account for the greatest player from Europe. Ronaldo had his swagger back and if he stayed focused, he would either score or give the assist that would break the Czech's back.
Game on. Both teams stayed true 100 percent to their game plans. The Czech's hardly had chances not because they couldn't get them, but because they didn't take them. They were squarely focused on Ronaldo. Portugal, on the other hand, kept a team attack for if they soley tried to score with Ronaldo, then it would be easier for the Czech's to defend them and frustrate Cristiano.
By the time we got to the half, neither side blinked. Ronaldo had two great chances that hit the post, but he was only disappointed instead of frustrated. Petr Cech, goalie and leader of the Czech Republic, kept his squad organized which is no small task given that they hardly get to play together. Consider also that hey had to deal with the likes of Ronaldo who in the blink of an eye could make the goal of the tournament. Ronaldo tried so hard to score that at one point he bicycled a shot almost on target. Still, when you looked at his face, it showed resiliancy instead of despair.
Halftime came and the team that should have felt the best was the Czechs even though Portugal should have been ecstatic that they controlled the possession of the ball and had quality opportunities on target. Would the players buy into it, or panic and go for an all out assult which the Portugese were famous for.
Both teams came out and Portugal became aggressive. Hugo Almeida put a shot over the crossbar in the first 20 seconds! After ten minutes of this fury, Portugal settled down back into being patient again. Ronaldo had a free kick that he drilled, with overspin, and it hit the post. He screamed looking into the heavens as if to say, three times... come on!
Was the Czech strategy working? Were they getting frustrated? The Czech's survived the flurry but barely. In the 53rd minute, Ronaldo had another chance with a long thru ball that was a bit too long even for him. After he shot the ball high, he started talking to himself. Was he frustrated by his perfectionist expectations or was he trying to calm himself down?
Then, Portugal turned up their attack with other's taking the lion's share of the shots. In the 57th minute, Nani shot from long range but Chelsea goalie Cech was up to the task and saved it. Then six minutes later Joao Moutinho hit a 20 yard shot that Cech had to deflect over the goal.
Then the moment everyone was waiting for. Moutinho got a pass to the right side of the attacking third and played a one touch cross going away from the goalie instead of square. That gave Ronaldo the chance for which he was awaiting. Theodor Selassie, who not only had a brilliant game but a wonderful tournament, thought he had Cristiano under control. Ronaldo was five yards outside of Selassie who positioned himself beween the ball and Cristiano. What he forgot to do was to keep one eye on him. That is important for a defender to do because it is so much easier to watch the ball instead of watch the ball and the person you are responsible for defending. Ronaldo took advantage of Selassie's mistake by speedily running around him.
Selassie was redying himself to clear the ball, and then he saw a white jersey fly in front of him. That #7 jersey then headed the ball downward in the only spot Petr Cech could not cover. Brilliant. That is why some feel that he is better than Lionel Messi. I think Messi is the best and may be the best ever before it is all said and done. Still, the grandeur of the shot Ronaldo made today makes a case for all of his fans who think he is the best.
The Czech Republic had to score now, and it was obvious that both coaches were correct in their game plans. Coach Bilek put attackers on the field but to no avail because Coach Bento countered with defenders. Both coaches knew that attacking would not be the way the Czech Republic could win. When it was all said and done, the better team advanced to the semifinals beating the Czechs 1-0. Portugal outshot their opponents 15 to 2. Now they have to wait to see whether or not they play the French, or their Iberian neighbors Spain.
Tomorrow, we see the economic backbone of the Eurozone, Germany, take the economic backbreaker of it, Greece. The dynamics of this game off the field is probably more interesting than what they are on it. Still, the game must be played and who knows what will happen on the field.
God Bless You All.
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