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Euro 2016 Quarter-Finals: Poland vs Portugal Preview
Portugal and Poland square off in the first Euro 2016 quarter-final at the Stade Velodrome this Thursday.
The Euro 2016 quarter-finals will get underway with dark horses Poland taking on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on Thursday evening. Poland advanced to the last eight via a penalty shoot-out against Switzerland, whilst Portugal conjured up a last-gasp extra-time winner through Ricardo Quaresma to break Croatian hearts last Saturday.
This encounter has all the ingredients to be a humdinger, but just which team has the guts and determination to come out on top?
Euro 2016 Quarter-Final | Thursday 30 June | Stade Velodrome | 21:00
Poland 28/10 | Draw 19/10 | Portugal 12/10
Poland are through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 after defeating Switzerland on penalties at the end of an entertaining 1-1 draw in Saint-Etienne, duly booking their first last-eight tie at a major tournament since 1982. If Poland can operate with patience, restraint and steel, like they have been doing so well, they could just topple the Portuguese.
One of just two teams along with Germany not to ship a goal in the group stage, Poland have generated plenty of praise for their defensive austerity. Central pair Kamil Glik and Michal Pazdan have been solid behind the screening presence of Grzegorz Krychowiak. There is experience and guile on the wings through Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki, both of which are hard-working and thoroughly efficient.
Robert Lewandowski is having a barren run in the European Championship. The Bayern Munich forward has now gone seven international games without finding the net – a remarkable figure for a player who registered a record-equalling 13 times during qualifying and also hit 30 Bundesliga goals last term. Despite his struggles, Lewandowski isn’t hiding on the pitch, putting himself around with his usual athleticism, drawing fouls and creating space for his teammates. If Poland are to progress, they need him to come good.
Poland are travelling with enough momentum to suggest there are a few more chapters to come. Their team work as a unit, fight for one another, giving their all on the field. It’s fair to say, Portugal will definitely have their work cut out for them.
Portugal maintained their record of making it to the quarter-finals or better of every European Championship they have competed in as a dramatic late extra-time winner edged out Croatia in Lens. For a mostly dreadful last-16 game with so little action, Portugal’s 1-0 win over Croatia did produce one of the finest endings of the tournament.
Ronaldo became the first player to score in four separate European Championships with his brilliant double in Portugal's 3-3 draw with Hungary, and while he struggled to make an impact against Croatia, he was heavily involved in the winning goal as his diagonal shot rebounded into the path of Quaresma and could yet make this tournament his own. Renato Sanches has provided glimpses of the talent that persuaded Bayern Munich to make him one of the most expensive teenagers in history before the tournament. Sanches has had to settle for substitute appearances so far, but after similarly impressive cameos against Iceland and Hungary, it could be time to unleash him from the start.
Only Germany, England and France have allowed fewer opposition shots per game than Portugal's 8.5 at Euro 2016, and their defensive illiberal could be a key factor in the latter stages of the competition. Portugal have never won a European Championship but they certainly have tournament pedigree to go all the way. They have reached the semi-finals in three of the last four instalments, including their famous run in at the Euro 2004, where they were famously beaten in the final by Greece. Their Euro 2012 campaign ended with a penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain in the semi-finals, and although they are yet to win a game in normal time at this year's tournament, recent history suggests it would be foolish to rule them out.
Throughout the competition, Poland has shown outstanding organisational skills, teamwork and an impressive fighting spirit, whilst Portugal are yet to impress. They are riding their luck, and I think it’s about to run out. In what should be a nail-biting match-up, Poland are tipped to grind out a victory in 90 minutes.