Ronaldo show seals Portugal progress
Ronaldo set up the third goal for Ricardo Quaresma
Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and set up two more as Portugal qualified for the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008™ after a 3-1 win over Group A rivals Czech Republic at the Stade de Genčve.
Deco had given Portugal an eighth-minute lead after good work from Ronaldo before Libor Sionko's thumping header levelled proceedings. However, Ronaldo turned on the style in the second half, providing a sublime finish from the edge of the area in the 63rd minute before supplying Ricardo Quaresma to round things off in added time. The win left Portugal top of Group A with six points and their last-eight place was confirmed by Turkey's last-gasp victory over Switzerland later in the evening – a result that leaves the Czechs tied with Turkey on three points ahead of their decisive meeting on Sunday.
While Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari kept faith with the same XI that served him so well in the opener against Turkey, his Czech counterpart, Karel Brückner, dropped Jan Koller in favour of Milan Baroš, top scorer at UEFA EURO 2004™, and elected not to give Václav Svěrkoš the chance to shine from the start despite his winning strike against the Swiss. The Czechs may have registered the first shot on goal after Sionko's mazy run, but it was the Portuguese who delivered the first telling blow with just eight minutes on the clock. The ever-menacing Ronaldo escaped the clutches of his marker down the left side before a swift one-two with Nuno Gomes left the Manchester United FC winger with just Petr Čech to beat. The Czech goalkeeper somehow foiled Ronaldo's effort to waltz around him but the ball fell invitingly for Deco to slot home at the second attempt from close range, giving Scolari's men the perfect start.
The Czechs, who had clearly targeted Paulo Ferreira as Portugal's weak link down the right, sought an instant response through Marek Jankulovski but, after cleverly making space for himself, he could only send his long-range effort wide of Ricardo's post. The game was developing into an absorbing contest played at a breathtaking pace and it came as no surprise when the Czechs restored parity in the 18th minute. Jaroslav Plašil was the architect, swinging in a vicious corner and Sionko, who had been at the heart of almost every Czech attack, powered a diving header beyond the despairing dive of Ricardo.
The merits of hard work and a deft touch were apparent in both midfields with Petit always assured on the ball and the Czech trio working tirelessly to close down Portugal's wing quartet whenever they looked threatening. Although Ronaldo had three efforts on goal before the interval, Portugal evidently emerged from their half-time team talk with renewed vigour. First Nuno Gomes, anonymous to that point, had two efforts in quick succession before Scolari's team regained the lead through a combination of young legs and an older head. After wave upon wave of Portuguese attacks, the ball fell to Deco on the right of the area and he weighted his pass perfectly for Ronaldo to supply the smooth finish with a right-foot shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Čech's goal from the edge of the area. It was his 46th goal of an incredible season.
Quaresma slots home
The Czechs threw everything at Portugal in the closing stages but could not find their way past Ricardo and a resolute Portuguese defence and in the final minute, with the entire Czech team committed to an attack, Ronaldo raced clear before squaring to Quaresma who slotted the ball home to complete the victory and put Portugal within touching distance of the last eight.