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Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1: Dramatic late winner boosts Cristiano Ronaldo and Co

Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1: Dramatic late winner boosts Cristiano Ronaldo and Co

Portugal’s fortunes were spared as they came from behind to win over the Czech Republic in their opening match at Euro 2024.

All eyes were on Ronaldo – anticipating the performance of a player who has been in Saudi Arabia since 2023 – but the 39-year-old missed a good chance to put his side ahead in the first half.

Instead, it was the Czech Republic that – so far – took the lead another attack from outside the penalty area. Lukas Provod’s beautiful goal was the eleventh goal from outside the penalty area so far at this year’s tournament.

Portugal struggled to really impose themselves in attack, but received a huge dose of luck when Robin Hranac turned into his own goal seven minutes after going behind.

It seemed their luck had turned around when Ronaldo was ruled just now The video assistant referee’s offside after the rebound of his header was saved by Diogo Jota.

But in the final phase, Francisco Conceicao emerged and took all three points for Roberto Martinez’s team.

Here, The Athletics Tim Spiers, Tom Burrows and Sam Lee take us through the topics of discussion.


Was Portugal good?

It’s nice to know that it’s not just England who seem to be having trouble fitting their quality players into a cohesive system. Portugal grabbed a late victory that boosted morale and showed they have enough options (quality on the bench, versatility on the pitch) to find different solutions. More will be expected of them after they find a way to get over the line but, somewhat like England, it was far from the most convincing opening win.

They dominated the game, which the Czech Republic were happy with, but it never really clicked despite deploying an admirably fluid system.

Bernardo Silva in particular was popping up everywhere, although often high up next to Ronaldo, while Bruno Fernandes offered deeper to take the ball from the centre-backs, which seemed like it wasn’t getting the best out of either player.

Their build-up was quite slow, with few players coming through the middle, and Joao Cancelo, Vitinha and Raphael Leao struggling to create when they advanced the ball. The right side was largely quiet until Diogo Dalot moved higher after half-time, and then Cancelo moved there, where he put in a lovely cross late on for Portugal’s disallowed goal, which was probably helped by Ruben Dias scoring an overlapping run from the centre. -back as they sent more men forward.

It looked like it was destined for a probably deserved draw when it was disallowed, only for a flurry of late substitutions to get the goal they needed after essentially kicking the ball well over the line for Pedro Neto to dribble and Conceicao – making his competitive debut – to join.

Not exactly the kind of connection they were looking for, but tonight they will succeed.

Sam Lee


How did Ronaldo do it?

Like it or not, Ronaldo is still the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to this Portuguese team. The number of fans with his name on their jersey outnumbers the other players by about 10 to one. His name was shouted at the volume of a goal as the line-ups were read out and they cheered his every touch during the warm-up. The cult of Ronaldo is alive and well.

But now that he is 39 years old (the second oldest player at the tournament behind his teammate Pepe, who at 41 is the oldest player at any European Championship ever and has had an unusually quiet night with the Czech Republic rarely venturing forward) and Saudi Arabia plays in Saudi Arabia, also called the 27th best league in the world, could he still make it in an international tournament?

Well, he was much more involved in the game than he was in the 2022 World Cup (when he was so ineffective he was dropped). He created a chance for Vitinha with a stylish strike, he also had a few chances himself, including a header that he pushed wide and a shot on the turn and a free kick that came too close to the keeper. He was clearly also the leader and talisman of the team.

Of Portugal’s starting XI, he had the fewest touches and the most shots, which is about what you’d expect at this stage of his career. In any other team you’d say a player like that would need goals to justify his place, but he’s a sure starter anyway. The Ronaldo roadshow continues.

Tim Spiers

Disappointment for persistent Czechs

In a defensive display, the physically imposing Czech Republic absorbed Portuguese pressure for much of the match played in pouring rain in Leipzig.

Ivan Hasek, who returned to manage his country for only a second time in January, fielded his team in a conservative 5-3-2 formation against their opponents, filled with a cast of great names.

Portugal made 408 passes in the first half, the most of any country in the first 45 minutes of the first round of this tournament, in what looked like a training match between attack and defense. Martinez’s team also had eight corner kicks in the first half, but the strong Czech Republic held on and frustrated their opponents.

Although Portugal dominated possession, they never knocked on the door and in the 61st minute of the match it was the Czech Republic who took a shock lead when Provod curled in a sumptuous strike from outside the penalty area. It was a great moment for the Slavia Prague midfielder, who missed the 2020 European Championship with a brutal cruciate ligament injury and was studying economics during his recovery.

Ultimately, Portugal’s equalizer came through a stroke of luck when Czech goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek parried the slippery ball on the knee of central defender Robin Hranac and ended up in the net.

As the match came to an end, the Czech Republic, who switched to a 5-4-1, tired and Portugal finally got the winner from Francisco Conceicao in stoppage time.

It was a cruel blow to death. Hasek’s side will next face Georgia on Saturday, who lost 3-1 to Turkey earlier today in what has been the match of the tournament so far, where they will have to show more attacking spirit.

Tom Burrows


What did Portuguese national coach Roberto Martinez say?

We’ll bring this to you after he speaks at the post-match press conference.

What did Czech Republic says coach Ivan Hasek?

We’ll bring this to you after he speaks at the post-match press conference.


What next for Portugal?

Saturday June 22: Turkey (Dortmund), 5pm BST, 12pm ET

What next for the Czech Republic?

Saturday June 22: Georgia (Hamburg), 2:00 PM BST, 9:00 AM ET


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(Top photo: Eric Verhoeven/Socrates/Getty Images)