Striker Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 79th minute, sending Portugal to a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic Thursday during the quarter-final match at the European championship in Warsaw.
The plan was simple for the Czech Republic: play a tight-checking match against Portugal and hope for overtime or penalty kicks.
The only flaw in that strategy was the Czechs had no answer for Ronaldo.
Receiving heavy criticism for missing golden scoring chances in Portugal’s first two games of the tournament, Ronaldo has rebounded, showing why he’s one of the most prolific goal-scorers of his era.
With Portugal continually pressing in the second half, Ronaldo, who hit the post twice, finally broke through, timing his run perfectly past Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie and delivering an emphatic header off the cross by midfielder Joao Moutinho in the back of the net.
In the match against the Netherlands during the final match of the group stage, Ronaldo’s two goals allowed Portugal to advance to the quarter-finals.
Considering what was at stake against the Czech Republic, Thursday’s performance was equally impressive. From the opening whistle, Ronaldo was the most dangerous offensive player for either side.
He nearly put Portugal ahead in extra time of the first half. After getting behind the Czech defence, Ronaldo did a splendid job controlling Raul Meireles' pass with his chest, but the spinning shot rang off outside of the right post.
The unrelenting Ronaldo then found an open lane in the 54th minute, but his shot sailed over the crossbar.
Four minutes later, a Portugal goal was nullified as Hugo Almeida was deemed offside before his header beat Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech.
While it wasn’t esthetically pleasing, the strategy implemented by the Czechs shouldn’t have been surprising. They were overmatched by a more gifted Portugal side, and played without the services of team captain Tomas Rosicky, who injured his Achilles tendon injury during a 2-1 win over Greece on June 12.
In essence, Ronaldo made the Czech Republic pay for playing most of its players in front of Cech without generating much of an offensive attack.
"The Czechs didn't have a single chance," Ronaldo said.
What this result means
- The victory sends Portugal into a semifinal matchup with either the defending European champion Spaniards or France.
The winning goal
- Ronaldo continually found open spaces behind the Czech defence, and it paid off in the 79th minute as made a clever move around Gebre Selassie to convert Moutinho’s cross. It was Ronaldo’s sixth career Euro goal.
Man of the match
- Seriously, could it be anybody else? If Portugal is to contend against either Spain or France, it will need Ronaldo to work his magic. To this point, he hasn’t disappointed.
The Portuguese perspective
- "We have suffered. But we always wanted to win and that's what we showed. We were superior, then we scored and we really deserved this result." — Portugal forward Nani
The Czech perspective
- "In the second half, we lost our strength and determination and they had one chance that decided the match." — Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek