Czechs get ready to stop Ronaldo in Euro quarter
The Czech Republic faces a huge challenge in a European Championship quarterfinal against Portugal: to stop Cristiano Ronaldo.
In Petr Cech, the Czechs have one of the best goalkeepers on earth. Since his international debut more than 10 years ago as a 19-year-old rookie, Cech has become as dominant for the national team as he has been for Chelsea since joining the English club in 2004.
But even Cech in goal might not be enough to halt the lethal Portuguese attack led by Ronaldo, who scored two goals Sunday to send home the Netherlands.
Cech said the entire team must contribute to the huge task of stopping Ronaldo in Warsaw on Thursday.
''I've faced him in many matches and I can use my experience from them, but it is crucial for us to work as a team to succeed,'' Cech said. ''He's 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 both the right and left foot from any position.''
Before moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid, Ronaldo beat Cech with a header in the 2008 Champions League final and also scored a goal and set up another one in Portugal's 3-1 win at the group stage of Euro 2008 despite Cech's presence.
''With Chelsea, we always carefully prepared for the matches against Manchester United,'' Cech said. ''It's crucial not to give him space because his speed is exceptional.''
The Czechs were almost written off from Euro 2012 following a 4-1 loss to Russia, but a pair of wins over Greece and Poland put them through to the quarterfinals.
Now, the hope is to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2004. They say they are doing the maximum to make it happen and even have stopped shaving after winning the first match. But they will need more than their new look to help them in the quarterfinal.
''We've passed two huge tests,'' Cech said. ''We came back and have a chance to equal our success from Portugal (in 2004). We just need to win one more game. It's sport and anything can happen.''
In the match against the Netherlands, Ronaldo rediscovered his scoring touch and reproduced the form he showed in a 60-goal club season.
Right back Theodor Gebre Selassie, who will need to be at his best to stifle Ronaldo, remains confident.
''It will be more difficult for us, because he's one of the best players in the world. But you can't expect us to be afraid of the match just because Ronaldo is on the pitch,'' he said.
Center back Tomas Sivok said the other players will have to make sure they help Gebre Selassie mark Ronaldo.
''It's very hard to defend against him,'' Sivok said. ''He's a complex player and it's tough to be ready for everything he's capable of. Theo will need our help.''
If the Czech defensive plans go well, the match could be decided in a penalty shootout, one of Cech's specialties.
Cech was the hero of the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, saving penalties from Arjen Robben in regulation time and Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the shootout.
He also saved Ronaldo's penalty in the shootout in the 2008 Champions league final.
''But he won so I don't think he cared much about it,'' Cech said. ''The final result is what counts. If Ronaldo scores from the spot and we still advance, I don't care.''