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Euros: Portugal and Czech Republic set for fourth Finals meeting

Tuesday will see the four teams in Group F get their Euros campaigns underway, with Portugal and the Czech Republic meeting for the fourth time at the Finals.

We look back at their three previous meetings and how they’ve gone on to fare in the tournament.

1996 - Czech Republic 1-0 Portugal

After splitting from Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic’s first international tournament saw them take everyone by surprise at Euro 96, with the likes of Pavel Nedved, Karol Poborsky and Patrik Berger being snapped up by Lazio, Manchester United and Liverpool respectively that summer.

The Czechs lost their opening game to Germany but pulled off a surprise win against Italy in their next game, meaning they just needed to match Italy’s result when facing Russia in the final match of the group stage. Italy drew 0-0, while the Czech Republic threw away a 2-0 lead to fall 3-2 behind before Vladimir Smicer’s late winner set up a quarter-final tie with Portugal.

Although this wasn’t a Portugal side of the calibre we see today, it still featured the likes of Rui Costa, Paulo Sousa, Luis Figo, Fernando Couto and Vitor Baia. On top of that, Nedved was suspended from the group stage and coach Dusan Uhrin even admitted he’d be surprised to see his side progress.

But his side did progress. As impressive as the Czechs were at Euro 96, Portugal were certainly the better side on the day, but were repelled by an excellent rearguard from the underdogs before  Poborsky barged through three Portugal defenders, lobbing Baia from the edge of the area; his goal the difference between the two sides, setting up a tie with France.

The Czechs kept France at bay for 120 minutes, winning on penalties to reach the final with Germany, but a fairytale win wasn’t to be, as they’d go down 2-1 after extra time.

2008 - Czech Republic 1-3 Portugal

After Euro 2004, which represented both Portugal and the Czech Republic’s best chances of international glory with Portugal the hosts and Czech Republic experiencing a Golden Generation of players, the two sides put the disappointment behind them for Euro 2008.

The Czechs were without talisman Nedved but were now armed with Milan Baros – Golden Boot winner from Euro 2004 – and the towering Jan Koller, with the world class Petr Cech between the sticks.

The pair would meet in the group stage after winning their opening games, and while the Czechs started brightly, cancelling out the impressive Deco’s early goal through Libor Sionko, Portugal’s individual quality told in the end.

The world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo would see Portugal retake the lead, before a late breakaway saw Ronaldo lay on an assist for Ricardo Quaresma.

The final game of the group stage resulted in more Euros heartbreak for the Czechs as three late goals from Turkey saw them go from 2-0 up and cruising into the quarter-finals to gut-wrenching elimination, while Portugal would be knocked out in the quarters by eventual runners-up Germany.

2012 - Czech Republic 0-1 Portugal

By 2012, the Czech Republic’s time looked to have been and gone, especially after losing their opening game 4-1 to Russia, but Michal Bilek’s side bounced back excellently with wins over Greece and hosts Poland to set up another quarter-final tie with Portugal.

But unlike their 1996 meeting, the Czechs were no match for Portugal on this occasion. While they had little option but to defend deep and hope to stifle their opponents, the Czech Republic invited trouble, seeing their post struck by Ronaldo in each half.

Their defence was eventually breached by – who else? – Ronaldo after 79 minutes, with Portugal seeing the game out to reach the semi-finals, where they’d lose on penalties to France.

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