The Euros start up again today, and with them we've got four more days of blessed distraction before it's back to worrying about how June is almost over and Liverpool haven't signed anybody while Hulk and Hazard and Marin are already sipping martinis in Roman Abramovich's lair/discotheque beneath Stamford Bridge while the Chelsea owner strokes Jose Bosingwa's eyebrow. Where were we? Right, the Euros. And today's quarter-final between the Czech Republic and Portugal. Or something.
For today's game:
Czech Republic v. Portugal
7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
The Czech Republic were surprise first place finishers in Group A after Russia faltered in their final match against Greece, while Group B runners-up Portugal managed a strong second place showing after the struggling Netherlands made theirs less a group of death and more a group where Germany waltzed to first and the Iberians competed for second with the Danes. The Czechs are listed as the home side thanks to winning their group, but both countries come into the match with two wins and a loss and with the Portuguese having both the superior goal differential and more goals scored in the group stage.
Considering their group stage opponents, too, many will likely consider the Portuguese favourites after they defeated both Denmark and the Netherlands—even a badly out of sorts Netherlands—and frustrated the heavily favoured Germans for much of the opening match. The Czechs, on the other hand, were badly embarrassed in their loss to the Russians, barely looking competitive after the first fifteen minutes and with their over-matched backline conceding four goals. And while like the Portuguese they rebounded and won their next two, the Greeks and hosts Poland are on paper at least weaker competition than the Dutch and Danes. With two less impressive victories and a worse defeat to go along with arguably the shakiest defence in the knockout round, the Czechs could be in for another heavy defeat—especially if their midfielders get caught up the pitch too often as they did against Russia.
That seems likely to be a problem for the Czechs, too, because with striker Milan Baros registering no goals and a paltry two shots in the group stage they will have to rely heavily on midfielders Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Hubschman, and Vaclav Pilar in order to create anything in attack. Portugal's threat, meanwhile, is rather more obvious, with almost every success so far coming through Christiano Ronaldo. Just as important, though, will be their hardworking midfield trio of Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, and Miguel Veloso, who provide the foundation for Portugal's attack while protecting a backline that can also at times seem somewhat less than solid. The three men were primarily responsible for Germany's dynamic attack appearing largely toothless in the opener—though they did grow more adventurous against Denmark and the Netherlands—and if Ronaldo again impresses after having his best game of the tournament against the Dutch it will be in large part because of their hard work.
As always, we'll be around here off and on throughout the day and also over on Twitter being rude to people who don't agree with us. And for those who signed up for the ESPN Euro Manager fantasy game before the tournament began, a quick reminder to tweak your picks to start the knockout round seems in order with the Liverpool Offside group remaining a wide-open affair.