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Netherlands face tricky Czech test, Belgium, Portugal meet in titanic clash

Netherlands face tricky Czech test, Belgium, Portugal meet in titanic clash

Round of 16 action continues at Euro 2020 as Netherlands take on the Czech Republic in Budapest before one of the headline matches of the round takes place in Sevilla when Belgium face defending champions Portugal for a place in the quarter-final.

Here’s a preview of the two ties and everything you need to know about the match-ups:

Match 1: Netherlands vs Czech Republic

The Czech Republic will enter Sunday’s last-16 game against the Netherlands at Euro 2020 as the odds-on favourites, at least when it comes to the history of their head-to-head encounters.

Since the Czech Republic emerged as an independent state in 1993, its national team has won five games and lost three against the Dutch, on top of three draws.

Before that, Czechoslovakia memorably beat the Netherlands on the way to their only European Championship title in Belgrade in 1976, having edged Johan Cruyff and company 3-1 after extra time in the semi-final.

Czechoslovakia were not there to stop the Dutch when they won the 1988 title in West Germany.

But Czech fans cherish above all the memory of an epic battle at Euro 2004 in Portugal, won by the Czechs who came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

“People still remember that one best,” says Vladimir Smicer, the former Lens and Liverpool winger, who scored the decider after a selfless pass from Karel Poborsky.

Both teams went on to reach the last four at the 2004 tournament, with the trophy lifted by Greece who beat the Czech Republic on a silver goal in the semi-finals.

The first win by an independent Czech Republic dates from Euro qualifying in 1995 – the Czechs won 3-1, advanced to the tournament and finished as runners-up.

The latest sweet memories are as recent as the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

The Czech Republic beat the Netherlands twice, 2-1 at home and 3-2 in Amsterdam, the latter when Robin van Persie scored a bizarre own goal to help the 10-man Czechs advance to the finals while the Dutch stayed at home.

In that game, the first goal was scored by Pavel Kaderabek, who may appear in the Czech line-up on Sunday as a replacement for Jan Boril, ruled out by suspension.

Netherlands vs Czech Republic H2H

Pld W D L GF GA
Netherlands 20 5 4 11 22 33
Czech Republic 20 11 4 5 33 22

Who’s saying what

Ales Mateju, Czech Republic player

“I guess we have a better head-to-head record, but time has passed and we are now facing a really strong team. They won the group so easily.”

 Jiri Chytry,  Czech Republic assistant coach

“We consider the Netherlands one of the top teams, one of the favourites of the tournament,” he said.

“But if we give our best, we are able to face anyone.”

Frank de Boer, Netherlands head coach

“Traditionally we have a difficult game against the Czechs. I’m a positive person, so let’s say that everything will fit in its place.

“Our goal is not only to reach the final but to win it, that’s the objective, then the tournament will be judged a success for us.”  

Ruud van Nistelrooy, Netherlands assistant coach

“It’s a new phase of the tournament and it brings a new dimension to the games.”

“In knockout phases you can’t be relaxed, you have to be there for 90 minutes, possibly more than 90 minutes… it’s purely results orientated.”

Stats and trivia

  •  This is the sides’ third meeting in a EURO final tournament, current Netherlands coach Frank de Boer scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the group stage of UEFA EURO 2000 in Amsterdam.  Four years later, the Czechs came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in Aveiro in the UEFA EURO 2004 group stage. Wilfred Bouma (4) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (19) gave the Dutch an early two-goal cushion but Jan Koller (23) and Milan Baroš (71) brought the Czechs back on terms before Vladimír Šmicer’s 88th-minute winner. 

  •  Czechoslovakia came out on top in their only knockout tie against the Netherlands, in the semi-finals of their victorious 1976 UEFA European Championship campaign. Czechoslovakia’s Anton Ondruš scored at each end in normal time before extra-time goals from Zdeněk Nehoda (114) and František Veselý (118) ended Dutch hopes. That is the only previous knockout contest between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia.

  •  Netherlands’ last knockout phase win was on penalties after a 0-0 draw against Sweden in the 2004 quarter-finals. The Netherlands had been eliminated in a shoot-out from each of the previous three EUROs – by Denmark in 1992, France in 1996 and Italy in 2000.  

  •  The Czech Republic have qualified for every EURO final tournament since Czechoslovakia split in 1993.  

  •  Netherlands’ Depay provided eight assists in qualifying, more than any other player. Having scored six himself, he played a direct role in 58% of the Netherlands’ 24 goals. He also scored against Austria from the penalty spot on Matchday 2 at the finals and provided another goal and two more assists against North Macedonia.  

•  Although the Czech Republic have never played at the Puskás Aréna, this is their 21st game in Hungary, all in Budapest and all against the home side. Their overall record in the country as Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic is W2 D3 L15; their last visit was a 1-1 friendly draw in August 2013 at the Ferenc Puskás Stadium.

Match 2: Belgium vs Portugal

Two top contenders for the ultimate crown, Belgium and Portugal face off in the Round of 16 in Sevilla where there will be plenty of top stars on show on both sides.

However, there will be none bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo who will carry the hopes of the defending champions against a rampant Belgian side.

Portugal felt the full range of emotions during the Euro 2020 group stage and with Cristiano Ronaldo in the groove again, they can really begin to believe.

After scoring three late goals to beat Hungary, Portugal were shaken by a 4-2 loss to Germany, only for a 2-2 draw against France to restore morale and ensure they snuck out of Group F in third place.

Coach Santos reverted to his traditional 4-3-3 system of the past two years and making some bold changes by dropping William Carvalho and Bruno Fernandes. Their replacements Renato Sanches and the veteran Joao Moutinho, both rose to the challenge against Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

The principal threat though against Belgium will be Ronaldo who, at 36, already achieved his best Euro tally, after scoring twice in 2004, once in 2008 and three times in both 2012 and 2016.

He has pulled five clear of Michel Platini’s previous record of nine goals in total at European Championships and became the first ever to score in five different editions of the competition.

Against France, Ronaldo also equalled the world record for international goals held since 2006 by Ali Daei, who has 109 for Iran.

There may be an added personal incentive for Ronaldo to outshine Lukaku, who pipped the Juventus striker to Serie A’s player of the season award last season despite scoring five fewer goals.

Belgium, the world’s top-ranked side, face a difficult draw after taking maximum points from their three Group B matches, with Portugal going through as one of the four best third-placed teams, just as they did in 2016.

But with an in-form Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne back fit after a facial injury sustained in the Champions League final and Eden Hazard making his first start in the 2-0 win over Finland, the Belgians have no shortage in firepower of their own.

Belgium will have the advantage of two extra days’ rest over Portugal, who drew 2-2 with France on Wednesday to make sure of their place in the knockout phase.

Belgium vs Portugal H2H

Pld W D L GF GA
Belgium 18 5 7 6 22 21
Portugal 18 6 8 5 21 22

Who’s saying what 

Roberto Martinez, Belgium head coach 

“We cannot change who we are. We’re a dynamic team built to attack and to get at the opposing goal as soon as possible, but we’ll have to be patient.”

“We will have to make the right decision when to be patient and when to make those counter-attacks. We’re full of confidence. When we enjoy our football we play at our best.” 

Thibaut Courtois, Belgium goalkeeper 

“It’s a tough path but if you get through then it’s all the nicer. That’s the draw we’ve got but we hope to finish well.”

Fernando Santos, Portugal coach

“We can fight against the best teams. Either we believe or we don’t because we can beat anyone and I’ll keep saying it – no team thinks they will have an easy time against Portugal.”

Joao Moutinho, Portugal midfielder

“Belgium are not just De Bruyne, but of course he’s an amazing player. If we give him enough space and time to think and to play, he’s even more dangerous.”  

Stats and trivia

    This is the sides’ first meeting at a UEFA European Championship final tournament, although they have played in six qualifying fixtures, most recently in the preliminaries for UEFA EURO 2008. Ronaldo scored twice in a 4-0 home win in Lisbon before Portugal triumphed 2-1 in Brussels thanks to Hélder Postiga’s 64th-minute winner.  

    Belgium were the top scorers in qualifying overall with 40 goals in their ten matches. Fifteen different Belgium players found the net in qualifying. The Red Devils conceded only three goals, the joint-best record along with Turkey.

  •  A 2-0 semi-final win against Wales was Portugal’s only victory inside 90 minutes at UEFA EURO 2016; before Matchday 1, it was the only one of their previous eight EURO finals matches that was not all square after 90 minutes.  The loss in Munich on Matchday 2, in a game Portugal had led 1-0, is only their second defeat in 25 EURO matches (W16 D7), the other a 2-1 qualifying reverse in Ukraine on 14 October 2019.

  •  Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both provided seven assists in qualifying, fewer only than the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay (eight). Hazard scored five goals to De Bruyne’s four; Lukaku managed seven goals and four assists.  

    Ronaldo has made the most appearances in EURO final tournaments (24). The competition’s top scorer overall on 45 goals, he is also the top marksman in final tournaments on 14, his double against Hungary on Matchday 1 taking him clear of Michel Platini with whom he had shared the record on nine.  

Last-16 fixtures (local times listed, 2130 and 0030 in IST):

Saturday, June 26

Amsterdam: Wales v Denmark (1600)

London: Italy v Austria (1900)

Sunday, June 27

Budapest: Netherlands v Czech Republic (1600)

Seville: Belgium v Portugal (1900)

Monday, June 28

Copenhagen: Croatia v Spain (1600)

Bucharest: France v Switzerland (1900)

Tuesday, June 29

London: England v Germany (1600)

Glasgow: Sweden v Ukraine (1900)

— Matches are broadcast in India on the Sony Sports Network and Sony LIV app

With AFP and Uefa inputs

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