In Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, Poland and Portugal boast two of the world’s deadliest strikers but neither the sides nor their star men have set Euro 2016 alight. That could all change on Thursday.
While Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Hungary in the final group game, the Real Madrid superstar hasn’t been at his best. His missed penalty in the 0-0 draw with Austria was partially responsible for the Iberian nation’s third-placed finish in group F.
For his part, Lewandowski has failed to find the net in any of Poland’s four games thus far, though he did score his penalty in Poland’s 5-4 penalty win over Switzerland in the Round of 16. That win booked Poland’s maiden European Championship quarterfinal on Thursday and assistant manager Hubert Malowiejski expects his main man to rise to the occasion.
“We are not worried about Robert, not at all,” he said. “Of course he felt some pain after that match, but there is not even the slightest bit of doubt he will be ready for Portugal.”
Portugal reached the last eight with a drab 1-0 victory over Croatia and have drawn criticism in some quarters for the perceived negativity of an approach that contributed to neither side registering a shot on target in 90 minutes. Despite being largely shackled for most of the game, Ronaldo did eventually make an impact when his shot was parried in to the path of Ricardo Quaresma, who nodded home the winner.
Portugal defender Jose Fonte said that any team with a player of Ronaldo’s ability cannot be discounted.
“We’ll always have a chance. We’ve got the best player in the world – Ronaldo – and the likes of Nani, Quaresma and Joao Mario,” he said.
“If we have to play bad and win, I’ll do it. As a team you want to play good football and win games but sometimes you can’t.”
If he does score past a stingy Polish defense who have conceded just one goal in the tournament, Ronaldo will match Michel Platini’s European Championship scoring record of nine. He has already become the first player to score in four Euros and broken the competition record for appearances.
The winner of the match in Marseille will meet Wales or Belgium, who play on Friday, in the first semifinal in Lyon on July 6.