After an exciting group stage that did not feature a single scoreless match, we now enter the knockout stages of UEFA Euro 2012.
The first quarterfinal matchup sees Group A winners Czech Republic take on Cristiano Ronaldo and Group B runners-up Portugal.
Despite coming into this match as the second-place team from their group, Portugal it must be said have been more impressive in getting to this stage as their qualification required wins over past champions Denmark and the Netherlands and saw them narrowly losing to tournament favorites Germany.
The Czechs on the other hand fell quite tamely to Russia before scraping by Greece and hosts Poland to top group A.
Only three more matches potentially separate the remaining nations from European glory and immortality for those players who achieve it.
It’s a liveblog. It’s Four Five Two. It’s me, Orr!
And it’s international soccer at its finest. After the jump!
Kickoff is at 2:45 ET (USA)
My prediction: The Portuguese will have been happy to see Cristiano Ronaldo opening his account and building some momentum at the right time in the last match against the Dutch. The Czechs will put up the fight that getting this far merits, but simply don’t have the talent to keep up. Could be different if they pip an early goal, but I doubt it.
Czech Republic 1-3 Portugal
Full (real) Lineups (when available)
Czech Republic: 11 guys not good enough to play hockey and not smart enough to play chess.
Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Hubshman, Plasil; Jiracek, Darida, Pilar; Baros
Portugal: 11 sentient bottles of tanning oil.
Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Pregame: Could we see the resurrection of Milan Baros this evening? Nah.
Pregame: With his helmet, Petr Cech looks like one of the Koopas in Mario Bros. who threw the hammers.
Pregame: The Czechs would have the most pimp national anthem if they changed it from “Where is My Home?” to “Where is My Money?”
And we’ve kicked off! Portugal in white, Czechs in dark red.
2nd Minute: Czechs win a corner after some good work almost put Baros through in the box. Ball eventually back out for goal kick.
7th Minute: Another Czech corner, they’ve looked positive. Sorry I ducked away, got a phone call about my insane neighbor.
11th Minute: Now a Portugal corner. Czechs must have the edge in the air. If Portugal score from a free kick it will be direct.
12th Minute: Nani hits a wormburner right to Cech after the Portuguese had won another corner with a dangerous cross.
15th Minute: Kadlec starts a bright movement into the Portugal box. Czechs looking far more likely at the moment.
16th Minute: Now Jiricek wins another Czech corner. Cleared by Ronaldo for another.
18th Minute: Baros slides in but can’t connect with Darida’s dangerous ball. It goes out for yet another Czech corner, but it comes to nothing.
20th Minute: Portugal’s conservative play could be calculated. Get the sense they could just be opening the Czechs up. Ronaldo wins a corner.
21st Minute: Haven’t mentioned Howard Webb yet. He deals with some tussling between Jiricek and Ronaldo in the box, corner is poor, straight out.
24th Minute: Coentrao gives Cech a small scare with a looping ball, but he recovers to catch calmly.
25th Minute: Chance! Ronaldo called for a soft foul but Petr Cech stoned him from close range anyway!
26th Minute: Booking! Nani. Over-aggressive, think it was his first though.
27th Minute: Booking! Veloso. Ooh, Portugal getting chippy here. A bit early for that no?
28th Minute: Pepe clears the lines after a good, wide run in behind by Selassie. He’s been an interesting find at this tournament, Selassie.
32nd Minute: Portugal corner. Cleared but put back in the mixer and Ronaldo tries an audacious bicycle kick after some scrappy play! Would have been some goal.
34th Minute: Nani is so fragile. Wins a dangerous free kick for Ronaldo.
He swerves it past the post. It was 30 yards away to be fair.
38th Minute: Credit to the Czechs so far, they haven’t looked overmatched all half.
39th Minute: Postiga pulls up lame away from the ball. That doesn’t look good.
Portugal substitution: Hugo Almeida in for Postiga
43rd Minute: Some appeals for a penalty in the Czech box, but it’s Nani so… you know.
45th Minute: Nani and Ronaldo combine for a good one-two but Nani gets too cute.
45 +1: Chance! Ronaldo brings down a long ball with great skill and rattles Cech’s near post from a tight angle 12 yards out! Very close.
HT – 0-0 is the score between Czech Republic and Portugal.
One big chance at the end but a largely conservative, cagey half of football.
The Portuguese not too worried but the Czechs asked some questions. They may look to Rosicky to add some creativity. (UPDATE: Probably not because he’s crocked.)
Second half underway!
46th Minute: Early Chance! Almeida gets the header all wrong from a dangerous cross on the right by Meireles.
48th Minute: Ronaldo wins a free kick. Long way out.
Chance! The second attempt, a bit closer after a handball call, shaved the post!
53rd Minute: Portugal really asserting itself now. Much better start to the second.
55th Minute: Coentrao wins a Portugal corner. Jiricek had some difficulty there.
58th Minute: Nani tests Cech low from a long way out. Comfortable enough block in the end.
59th Minute: OFFSIDES! Almeida buries the header but smart defending puts him offsides at the right moment.
60th Minute: Well, a long mazy run from Pilar into the Portugal box deserved a better ending but he couldn’t find the right final option.
61st Minute: Czech Sub – Darida off for Jan Rezek, positive substitution.
62nd Minute: Czech Republic enjoying a good little spell now.
64th Minute: Cech with a nice save! Good drive by Moutinho.
65th Minute: Almeida looking a bit dull since coming on here. But he hassles Cech and worried the Czech crowd.
66th Minute: Kadlec tanked over by his own keeper, the onrushing Cech. The Russians at home approve.
72nd Minute: Ronaldo tees up Meireles from about 16 yards about but he skies it poorly.
74th Minute: Kadlec deflects Nani’s low shot at the last minute! The resulting corner ping pongs around the box before being cleared.
77th Minute: Nani gets in behind again but it’s a poor cross in the end, right to Cech.
79th Minute: Jiricek goes for a strong gallop but his speculative cross is well scooped up by Patricio.
GOAL! Portugal! 0-1! Ronaldo reacts fastest to a delicate cross and thunders the header off the ground and into the roof of the net! Great moment for the Madrid man!
82nd Minute: Now, can they hold it? The Czechs must start pouring forward. Gotta get the ball though.
83rd Minute: Cech equal to Pereira’s long drive through a body or two.
84th Minute: Portugal Sub: Nani out for Custodio, who has a great name for a guy coming on to help see out the match.
86th Minute: Czech Sub: Pekhart in for Hubschman – Gotta go for it now the Czechs.
87th Minute: Ronaldo nearly wins a penalty but Webb says play on. Fair in the end.
88th Minute: Portugal Sub: Meireles makes way for Rolando.
90th Minute: Booking! Limbersky in the book for a foul on Pereira.
93rd Minute: Czech corner. Petr Cech is up for it!
It’s totally wasted, and Cech would have been caught out if not for some poor decision making.
FT – It’s over! 1-0 Portugal win. Not as spectacularly as some had hoped. But the Czechs made it tough without ever really threatening themselves.
Deserved for Portugal, but do they have enough bite up top to get past a real power in the Semis? They’ll worry about that another day.
Thanks for joining me folks.