Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech has hailed Portugal skipper and striker Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the world’s best players on the eve of his team’s Euro 2012 quarter-final against the Portuguese here.
The former Manchester United ace struck a fine double in Portugal’s last group game against the Netherlands and Cech, who has faced the star player a number of times while admitted it would be crucial to stop the Real Madrid ace on the night.
“I’ve faced him (Ronaldo) many times and I can use my experience from them, but it is crucial we work as a team to succeed,” The Sun quoted Cech, as saying.
“He is a player who works hard to get better and he’s got a powerful shot. He’s dangerous because he is able to shoot with either foot from any position. With Chelsea, we always carefully prepared for matches against Man United (when Ronaldo was at United). It’s crucial not to give Ronaldo space because his speed is exceptional,” added Cech, whose team qualified for the quarter-finals as surprise winners of Group A.
The custodian also acknowledged that the Portuguese are favourites to win the match. “They are among the world’s top 10 teams. It’s a team full of personalities and outstanding players and they play very well. Against the Netherlands on Sunday, they were excellent up front,” said the Chelsea No 1.
“They also have enough experienced players. The team has matured and it's really strong,” he added.
Czech coach Michal Bilek agreed with his goalkeeper that Ronaldo will be “impossible” to stop.
“We’ll concentrate on our own game, we know Portugal have a lot of dangerous players in midfield and forwards such as Nani, (Helger) Postiga and Ronaldo. He’s an excellent player and we have that in mind and we’ll adjust our tactics to be more defensive.”
Meanwhile, the Portuguese side are also all set to rally around their star player. It will be the third meeting between the two teams in the last five championships, with each side having won one apiece — the most important belonging to the Czechs in the 1996 quarter-finals on their way to losing to Germany in the final.
“The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most professional players I have ever come across,” said midfielder Raul Meireles.
“He gives his all at every training session. He is our leader and, on the pitch, there is no one who wants to win more than him.
“He scored twice in the last match; before he had drawn a blank but he had still helped us out in other ways.”
The Portuguese meanwhile received a boost in their preparations for the match as Real Madrid centre-back Pepe resumed training on Tuesday after sitting it out on Monday with sore ankles.
The news is not so good for the Czechs, though, with captain Tomas Rosicky set to miss out as he struggles to recover from an inflamed Achilles tendon. “Will he be able to play from the start? I don’t think so. He hasn’t trained for eight days,” said Czech manager Vladimir Smicer.
Stop the monster: Czech media wary of Ronaldo too
Czech newspapers yesterday puzzled yesterday over ways to stop Cristiano Ronaldo as the Czech Republic prepare to face Portugal in tonight’s Euro 2012 quarter-final. “
Czech players could hardly face a bigger threat. If they want to succeed, they must above all stop Cristiano Ronaldo,” says broadsheet Lidove Noviny.
“It’s not easy to read Ronaldo’s moves. You never know in advance what he will do,” added the daily.
“The predator attacks. Czechs are building a wall against Ronaldo. Defenders must push him with their bodies to the sides to make shooting difficult for him,” read a headline in Czech’s top broadsheet DNES.
“The monster is now facing the Czech team... but he’s not going to break down,” said the Sport daily.