The Round of 16 are done and dusted and the UEFA Euro 2016 quarter-finals get underway tonight when Poland take on Portugal at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
Portugal, somewhat surprising, are the only team to have reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship in every tournament since 1996, while for Poland, this stage is uncharted territory. The Poles had never won a game at a European Championship finals before this year but are now just one match away from equalling their best-ever performance at a major tournament (semi-finalists at the 1974 and 1982 FIFA World Cup).
Poland are unbeaten at the Euro 2016. They made it to the last eight after defeating Switzerland on penalties after the match ended in a 1-1 draw following extra-time. It was Arsenal new boy Granit Xhaka who missed the penalty for the Swiss, the only failure from the 10 spot kicks taken by both sides. That was sufficient for Poland to progress further in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Portugal have failed to win a single game in 90 minutes so far in the tournament. They sealed a berth in the last eight of the European Championship after a gruelling 1-0 win over Croatia in the Round of 16, courtesy Ricardo Quaresma’s late goal in the second half of extra-time. Cristiano Ronaldo’s side will be hoping they can manage to win their first match of Euro 2016 in normal time.
The winners will face a semi-final clash against either Wales or Belgium, who clash in Lille tomorrow night.
DATE, TIME AND COVERAGE
Thursday 30 June, 21:00 CEST (00:30 IST) kick-off. Live on ITV/HD (Sony Six/HD). Live match commentary on BBC Football.
Lukasz Fabianski looks set to continue in goal with Wojciech Szczesny still struggling with a thigh injury picked up in the group stages. Star striker and captain Robert Lewandowski is looking to kick-start his tournament after failing to score a goal in his last seven internationals.
Portugal have had five days to recover from a draining extra-time victory over Croatia and have been boosted by the return of Andre Gomes and Raphael Guerreiro to training. Both started Portugal’s 1-0 extra time triumph over Croatia in the last 16 but sustained minor muscular problems. Portugal coach Fernando Santos is expected to have all his players available to face Poland tonight with Quaresma and Renato Sanches both hoping for a starting role.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played – 10
Poland Wins – 3
Draw – 3
Portugal Wins – 4
HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES
22-Feb-12 – Friendly – Poland 0-0 Portugal
08-Sep-07 – European Championship – Portugal 2-2 Poland
11-Oct-06 – European Championship – Poland 2-1 Portugal
10-Jun-02 – World Cup – Portugal 4-0 Poland
07-Jun-86 – World Cup – Poland 1-0 Portugal
Poland – DWDWD
25-Jun – Euro 2016 – Switzerland 1-1 Poland
21-Jun – Euro 2016 – Ukraine 0-1 Poland
16-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 0-0 Poland
12-Jun – Euro 2016 – Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland
06-Jun – Friendly – Poland 0-0 Lithuania
Portugal – WDDDW
25-Jun – Euro 2016 – Croatia 0-1 Portugal
22-Jun – Euro 2016 – Hungary 3-3 Portugal
18-Jun – Euro 2016 – Portugal 0-0 Austria
14-Jun – Euro 2016 – Portugal 1-1 Iceland
08-Jun – Friendly – Portugal 7-0 Estonia
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
The star striker is making headlines for the wrong reasons in France. After scoring 13 times in qualification – more than any other player in the competition – Lewandowski is goalless at Euro 2016 and has failed to register a single shot on target in the last four games. The Bayern Munich striker has never stopped working and his runs have opened up space for teammates – coach Adam Nawalka has said he is doing “phenomenal work” in that role – but he will be keen to get off the mark against Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Who else? Ronaldo arrived at the Euros as its undisputed star. However, he has hit both highs and lows so far. Some unflattering comments on Iceland were followed by throwing a TV journalist’s microphone into a nearby lake. But he showed his class against Hungary by scoring twice that sent his team through. He has failed to have an impact on this tournament like he would have expected but he did make up for a quiet match against Croatia by setting up the extra-time winner. Against Poland, the Real Madrid star will be aiming to get his name on the score sheet and take his country to the semi-finals.
Michal Pazdan and Kamil Glik v Cristiano Ronaldo
Undoubtedly, Poland’s defensive duo of Pazdan and Glik have been two of their most consistent performers in the tournament. The no-nonsense pair have kept three clean sheets in the four games and conceded just once – the Xherdan Shaqiri wondergoal. They may not have yet pitted themselves against a player of Ronaldo’s talent, and dealing with movement and trickery will be their biggest test to date. However with both in top form they will feel confident in being able to keep the Real Madrid star quiet throughout the game. If so, it could be another frustrating night for the Portuguese captain.
Poland (4-4-2) – Lukasz Fabianksi; Lukasz Piszczek, Michal Pazdan, Kamil Glik, Artur Jedrzejczyk; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Krzysztof Maczynski, Kamil Grosicki; Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski.
Portugal (4-4-2) – Rui Patricio; Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro; Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Joao Mario; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Name – Felix Brych
Based – Germany
Age – 40
Games – 2
Yellow Cards – 5
Red Cards – 0
Penalties – 0
Poland 13/5, Draw 15/8, Portugal 7/5
The Portuguese have a lot of attacking talent to trouble Poland and in Ronaldo they have got the best player in the world. But at the same time, Poland have made it this far and Lewandowski hasn’t turned up yet. The game will have a cautious start with both teams making sure they don’t concede an early goal. As the two teams settle down, they will start playing some free flowing attacking football and Ronaldo will be the key. If Pazdan and Glik can keep the former Manchester United star quiet for the whole game then they are in with a huge chance, but I can’t see that happening.
Predicted Score – Poland 0-1 Portugal
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.