The attacking flair of Portugal meets the defensive prowess of Poland in the first quarterfinal match up of Euro 2016.
Both teams have had very different routes through the group stage, but similar paths out of the round of 16.
Poland kept three clean sheets in the group games, registering two wins along the way to reach the knockout phase comfortably alongside World Cup winners Germany.
The Polish needed penalties to get past the Swiss in their round of 16 match up, but they controlled large portions of the match and will have no cause for concern heading into the quarterfinals.
Portugal’s passage has been a rocky one.
They failed to record a win in the group stage, but three draws was enough to see them through.
An extra time winner saw them advance through to the last eight after they played out one of the more dour contests of the tournament against Croatia.
Both teams possess a wealth of top-tier talent, headlined by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
It promises to be a fascinating contest.
Predicted team line ups
Poland possible XI: Fabianski, Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk, Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Maczynski, Grosicki, Milik, Lewandowski.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is still unlikely to take his place in the Poland goals after struggling to overcome a thigh injury, but Swansea shot-stopper Lukasz Fabianski has been terrific since taking his place after the opening contest.
Fabianski was undoubtedly Poland’s best player in the round of 16 clash against Switzerland, playing a part in the opening goal whilst also quashing wave after wave of attacks that ultimately drove the match to penalties.
The Polish have only conceded one goal for the entirety of Euro 2016.
Their three group stage clean sheets (including keeping world champions Germany goalless) exemplified just how disciplined Poland were, and it took an out-of-this-world overhead kick from Swiss and Stoke star Xherdan Shaqiri to breach their defence.
Robert Lewandowski is yet to fire in the tournament, while Arkadiusz Milik’s inability to regularly convert his chances has not yet come back to bite his country.
The lack of goal-mouth conversion from both Lewandowski and Milik can be seen as a positive for Poland, as two productive quarterfinal performances from the dynamic duo could see them progress past Portugal.
Portugal possible XI:Rui Patricio, Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Nani, Ronaldo.
What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Portugal so far.
They were the only team to reach the last 16 without winning a single group game – a stat that has not pleased those who feel the Portuguese were rewarded with a relatively easy knockout draw.
Thankfully for the Seleccao, they have had plenty of time to recover after their hard-fought 1-0 extra time win over Croatia last Sunday.
Match winner Ricardo Quaresma will be eyeing off a starting spot after coming off the bench to knock in the goal that sent Portugal to the quarters.
But all eyes, as always, will be on Cristiano Ronaldo.
The megastar has been erratic throughout the tournament to date, going goalless in the first two group games and missing a penalty in his side’s 0-0 draw against Austria.
But he was electric just four days later against Hungary, scoring a brace to earn a vital 3-3 draw that secured his team progression through to the round of 16.
If a focused Ronaldo turns up against Poland, there will be no stopping Portugal.
Match betting preview
All odds provided by sportsbet.com.au
Winner: Poland – $3.70
First goalscorer: Robert Lewandowski – $6
Correct score: Poland 1-0 – $8
The defensive powerhouse that is Poland face the one-man band that is Cristiano Ronaldo – oh sorry, Portugal – in the first quarterfinal of Euro 2016.
Poland have been wonderful throughout the tournament, but they will need much more out of their star striker Robert Lewandowski – goalless at the Euros so far.
The Bayern front-man knows how to lift on the big stage and we are banking on him finding the back of the net first against Portugal.
Poland have a terrific defensive structure which will be able to stifle Ronaldo and restrict his ability to generate shots on target.
If they are able to maintain their shape and play the committed football that has seen them get this far, there is no reason to believe Poland can’t beat the Portuguese.
They might be the outsiders, but we are backing Lewandowski’s Poland to advance through to the Euro 2016 semifinals.
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