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PORTUGAL manager Paulo Bento targeted a semi-final victory over Spain or France after Cristiano Ronaldo inspired his side into the European Championship’s final four.
Ronaldo’s 79th-minute winner proved enough against the thoroughly outclassed Czech Republic, even if his earlier profligacy had initially threatened to undermine.
Portugal now await the winner of tomorrow’s quarter-final between neighbours France and Spain, while the Czechs will perhaps reflect that simply progressing beyond the tournament’s group stages signalled the fulfillment of their potential.
“We did not start the match well in attack for the first 25 minutes, then we showed a great response in the second half, a great capacity to respond to the Czechs and that is why we really deserved this victory,” said Bento. “As the game went on we controlled the match, we played better and had more chances to create our own game.
“In the semi-finals of a tournament like this, there are always great teams with different characteristics who are well organised with players of great quality,
“We do not prefer [to play] anybody. It has been a lot of work by us to reach the semi-finals and we will try to recover to reach the pitch in the best condition.
“We will show the response which is necessary. Our aim will be to win against France or Spain. There cannot be any other goal for us.”
As in Portugal’s victory over Holland, Ronaldo, their captain, was truly outstanding. Playing with a freedom that only the very best are granted, he responded with a near-omnipresent threat.
A familiar desire to drive his side to victory ensured Ronaldo twice shot against the woodwork in either half, but seemingly unaffected, the forward responded by sprinting onto the end of Joao Moutinho’s cross to head beyond Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech for the winning goal 11 minutes from time.