By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
It’s the quarter-final stage of Euro 2012 and the wheat and the chaff have finally gone their separate ways. Well, there’s still a bit of chaff floating around to be honest, but there won’t be for much longer as we find out who’ll make up the semi-finalists. First up, it’s the unspectacular efficiency of the Czech Republic versus the ‘giving the ball to Ronaldo and getting him to do something’ of Portugal.
I’ll be bringing you all the news, views, live updates and random stuff that pops into my head for the duration of the evening. Your comments are welcome in the comments section below or via the Twitter machine at @PaddyPowerBlog
FULL TIME: Czech Republic 0 – 1 Portugal
9.39pm: There’s a bit of housekeeping left to be done. Ronaldo’s goal means we’re refunding losing 1st Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score and Scorecast bets on the match courtesy of our Money-Back Special.
If your were particularly impressed by that performance, Portugal are now 5/1 3rd favourites for Euro 2012. Being in the semi-final certainly helps. That’s all for me for the evening.
9.36pm: FULL TIME! It’s Portugal marching on. It was only four minutes of added time, showing that you should never listen to Peter Collins. Ronaldo has a couple of what sound like celebratory ‘moos’ with his team-mates.
9.35pm: Corner to the Czech Republic. Petr Cech goes up for it, but the Czechs stuff it up – not for the first time this match.
9.33pm: Thinking he’s at Old Trafford and United are losing, Howard Webb bizarrely decides there will be five minutes of added time.
9.32pm: Limbersky gets booked, meaning he’ll miss the next game. “You don’t think there’ll be a next match for him,” says Peter Collins rather ominously.
9.30pm: Raul Meireles’ fantastic hair is done for the evening. Rolando comes on for Portugal to add some muscle and burly manliness to the defence.
9.27pm: Hubschmann comes off for the Czech Republic. With not long to go, Tomas Pekhart replaces him as the Czechs hunt for a goal.
9.26pm: Nani gets the hook and Custodio comes on. It’s not a change to benefit the Portugal attack, but then again so was letting Nani take shots.
9.24pm: Petr Cech is stopping this from being a tonking. Joao Pereira gets into a great position, but the scrum-capped one parries it away for a corner.
9.20pm: GOAL! RONALDO! If at first you don’t succeed, try another 15 times and eventually you might get it right. The captain gets on the end of a cross and his diving header goes beyond Petr Cech. He runs to the sideline to celebrate, making a gesture that looks like he’s squeezing imaginary breasts.
9.16pm: A nice bit of play for Portugal creates a good chance for Nani. His shot looks good, but Kadlec sticks a leg out and the deflection takes it over the crossbar.
9.14pm: Less then 20 minutes to go and not just because I’m contractually obliged to mention odds every now and then, the Czech Republic are an interesting bet to nick it in 90 minutes at 15/2.
9.13pm: Spellcheck is suggesting I meant ‘impishly’ in my last update. Clearly it isn’t familiar with Ronnie Whelan’s commentary skills.
9.07pm: Petr Cech has been working harder than Ronaldo’s mousse in the last couple of minutes. He shows nice footwork to make a nice clearance and then plants his knee in the chest of his team-mate Kadlec when punching a cross away. It looks painful and it’s made even more painful with Ronnie Whelan gimpishly adding “they make them big and tough in the Czech Republic.”
9.06pm: Another good save from Petr Cech denies Moutinho who has a bit of a punt from about 25 yards out.
9.04pm: Milan Baros successfully recreates his time with Liverpool. He has a shot at goal from the edge of the area that has very little chance of actually going in.
9.02pm: Jan Rezek comes on for the Czech Republic with Darida being called ashore to record some more sarcastic animated comedy.
8.59pm: Portugal are looking good and not just because of their wide variety of fashionable haircuts. Nani tests Petr Cech with a long range shot and then Almeida sticks the ball in the back of the net, but it’s correctly ruled out for offside.
8.56pm: Ronaldo wastes a decent, but tricky enough half-chance. The live betting tells us Portugal are 11/10 to win in 90 minutes.
8.51pm: WOODWORK! CR7 goes close with the second of the free-kicks, with the ball hitting Petr Cech’s left hand post. Peter Collins says ‘the law of averages’ suggests he’ll get a goal sooner or later, even though the ‘law of averages’ only exists in commentary cliches.
8.50pm: Ronaldo’s networking works a charm as Howard Webb awards him a couple of free-kicks he doesn’t deserve.
8.47pm: Ronaldo comes out of the tunnel having a chinwag with former team-mate, Howard Webb. Portugal get the second half underway. Almeida proves to be a good replacement for Postiga by missing a great headed chance from about eight yards out.
8.44pm: “Tell us a story, grandad,” says Darragh Maloney to John Giles on the RTE panel. Gilesy obliges by telling us how great Eusebio was. Ahh, pass the Werthers Original.
8.40pm: Well it seems one person enjoyed that first half. Eamonn Dunphy – mainly because it gives him license to lay into Ronaldo.
8.37pm: Ronaldo has been Portugal’s main/only threat so far. We’ve got our hands on the pre-match photo (or at least how it looks in Ronaldo’s head):
8.32pm: HALF TIME! It hasn’t all been terrible, sometimes it’s just been really poor. You know you sometimes get those scoreless draws that are really exciting? Yeah, well this isn’t one of them. Hopefully the second half will be more eventful and Ronaldo will unveil a new hairdo.
8.30pm: POST! Out of nowhere, Ronaldo comes up with a moment of brilliance. Chesting the ball down in the penalty area, he spins and gets a good shot on goal. It gets beyond Cech, but smacks the post.
8.29pm: There’s two minutes of added time at the end of the half. It’s two minutes more than anyone wants.
8.25pm: Helder Postiga goes down injured with what looks like a hamstring knack. He’s stretchered off somewhat melodramatically and Hugo Almeida takes his place.
8.19pm: Ronaldo blasts a free-kick at the Czech goal. It’s not a bad effort, but it still goes wide. The better idea would have been crossing for a team-mate, but when that’s suggested to him, Ronaldo replies ‘what’s a team-mate?’
8.17pm: A decent overhead kick from Ronaldo goes wide. There is some good news however, as there isn’t a single hair out of place.
8.11pm: A couple of quick-fire yellow cards for Portugal. Nani gets one followed soon after by Miguel Veloso.
8.09pm: Ronaldo carves out a good chance for himself, but Howard Webb decides 10 seconds without him blowing his whistle is too long. CR7 gets a free-kick given against him for the slightest of shoulders in the build-up. Petr Cech saved his shot anyway.
8.05pm: Portugal get in on the ‘wasting the corners’ act. It was nearly a good ball. If the other corner flag was a team-mate.
8.03pm: So far, the Czechs are on top. Their wasting of corners has been excellent, but they haven’t carved out many clear cut chances.
8.01pm: Rui Patricio decides the game needs a bit of excitement, so comes flapping off his line and completely misjudges a cross. Ronaldo gets a head on it however and it gives the Czechs another corner to waste.
8pm: 15 minutes gone and I’ve just realised it’s June 21st – the longest day of the year. A feeling not helped by the first quarter of an hour of this match.
7.56pm: There’s some nice play from Fabio Coentrao on the edge of the Czech penalty area. He beats three players. And finds himself standing in exactly the same place he started in. Portugal get a corner which leads to the first shot on target of the game and Petr Cech’s first ‘simple, but you never know after the other day’ catch of the evening.
7.54pm: Nani and Limbersky break out the handbags for the first ‘I’m the big man’ pointless spat of the evening. The referee’s assistant is the only winner courtesy of some solid ‘break it up, lads’ work.
7.52pm: The first hissy-fit of the evening from Ronaldo. It looks like he was unhappy with a team-mate losing the ball, but it might also be because someone described his hair as ‘too Downton Abbey’.
7.49pm: It’s been a timid start to the game, with neither commentator willing to use a ‘Czech/cheque/check’ pun. I’m not complaining. The match is also a little cagey so far.
7.46pm: Ronnie Whelan says it’s “not as cool, not as sticky as the other night”. I think he’s talking about the conditions inside the stadium as opposed to Ronaldo’s hair.
7.45pm: After another stupid countdown, the Czech Republic kick off.
7.40pm: The teams are out on the pitch and it’s mumbling through the national anthems time. It’s interesting to note Ronaldo has chosen to start with the ’1920s gangster’ look for tonight’s game. I’ll keep you updated if there are any changes during the evening.
7.36pm: The roof is closed for tonight’s game at the National Stadium in Warsaw. Apparently not everyone is happy with that because of concerns about the likely humidity and more importantly, the smell of stale farts building up in the stadium.
7.26pm: If you’re looking for some pre-match guidance from a former English international and Liverpool striking LEGEND, then this is you’re lucky live blog. Here’s Robbie Fowler giving his views on tonight’s game. And here’s Rob of the Paddy Power Blog giving his opinion on the game. He’s not an England international, but he does drink a lot and occasionally stumbles upon a good result, which is a lot like being an England international.
7.18pm: Sorry, I made a mistake. Daria was the name of the MTV cartoon, not Darida. I was right about the ‘shit’ part though. Utter garbage.
7.08pm: TEAM NEWS
The teams have been named and as you’d expect, there hasn’t been a whole lot of change. For the Czech Republic, Tomas Rosicky reverts to the role he has had at Arsenal for the last couple of years – the bench. He has an Achilles injury and won’t be risked until later in the game. Darida – who I think had a really shit sitcom on MTV many years ago – takes his place.
Czech Republic: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky, Hubschman, Plasil, Jiracek, Darida, Pilar, Baros
Paulo Bento hasn’t gone all tinkerman for this, staying loyal to the team that beat the ‘only slightly worse than Ireland’ Netherlands, last time out. That means Ronaldo starts for Portugal with Nani staring lovingly at him from afar.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Coentrao, Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho, Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
7.05pm: Fans of taking stuff from the past and using it to guess what’s going to happen in the future don’t have much to go on with this game. The two teams have met twice – both at the Euros – with each side claiming one win. The hair-product over-users of Portugal won the most recent encounter in 2008, but the Czech Republic won their first meeting at Euro 1996. That game is possibly most famous for Karel Poborsky’s hair, but he also scored this amazing lob after jamming his way through the Portuguese defence (22 seconds in):
6.55pm: Just under an hour to go until kick-off and it’s a tough one to call. You’d think Portugal will be too good, but I thought Czech Republic would be on a beach somewhere after seeing them getting an atomic wedgie from Russia in their first game. The odds tell us Portugal are the 1/5 favourites to progress, with the Czechs a tasty 3/1 to defy the gloomy assessment that they don’t belong in the quarters.