.Ronaldo Versus Lewandowski
Poland and Portugal will get the ball rolling in Marseille as they face each other to kick-start the quarter-finals of EURO 2016.It will certainly boil down to a battle of two superstars – Christiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid versus Robert Lewandowski of Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich. Though the latter is hit by a strange goal drought. In fact, the whole of Poland look up to Lewandowski to give them his first EURO 2016 goal.
This will be the third time, Portugal and Poland will do battle in a major tournament, with a 1-1 balance sheet. Poland had won Portugal 1-0 in the 1986 world cup in Mexico, while Portugal responded with a 4-0 retaliation at the 2002 world cup. Their last meeting in 2012 in Warsaw was a boring encounter that ended goalless.
Poland goes into this game with historical odds against them. Poland’s last win in the knockout stages of a major tournament (excluding the penalty shoot-out victory against Switzerland) was in 1982 against France (a 3-2 win in the third-place play-off). Conversely, Portugal are the only team to have reached the quarter-finals of the European Championships in every tournament since 1996.
And now they have the chance to reach the semi-finals for the fifth time in seven European Championship finals. But will that be easy?
The Polish were brilliant in the EURO 2016 qualifications with their fascinating offensive displays but have astonishingly being too defensive in France, letting in only one goal so far from Switzerland, but not scoring either. They are yet to score more than one goal in a match at the championship.
It will be too simplistic to explain this with Lewandowski’s dipped form and goal drought. The truth is that Poland seems to have changed its football philosophy. They have been too cautious going forward and are no longer creating quality chances. Nevertheless, they remain a hard nut to crack. Their defending is very resolute, ask world champions, Germany. The Germans, legendary for scoring, were not even able to put on past them.
Portugal, with stars like Ronaldo, William Carvalho, Pepe and Ricardo Quaresma etc have failed to impress. Based on their quality, they should be co-favourites for the title, instead they struggled to qualify and were lucky to have gone through on the best third place team rule.
But against an impressive Croatian team that defeated defending champions, Spain in the group stage, Portugal sounded a warning to those writing them off. They sent the Croats packing with a a heart-breaking goal netted by substitute Quaresma three minutes before the end of extra-time.
Ronaldo, like his rival Messi have been marvellous footballers at the club level but always fail to inspire their countries to major football triumphs. This is why it still remains impossible for people to liken them to such greats as Pele, Maradona, Eusebio, Zidane, Platini etc.
Messi just failed in his bid to end his Argentina misery with Chile frustrating him into an early retirement. It is now left to be seen if Ronaldo could for once rise up to the occasion and emulate fellow countryman, the late Eusebio.
The fate of Portugal in this game is tied to what Ronaldo does tonight. The same goes for Poland.
Kick-off is 21.00 CET.