Portugal vs. Czech Republic Preview: Selecao and Narodak Hope to Continue Their Fine Form at Euro 2024

Portugal begins their European Championship campaign with a game against the Czech Republic on June 18. The match, which will be held at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany, is the second game in Group F after Turkey’s opener against Georgia.

The two teams have faced each other five times in their history since the Czech Republic (now Czechia) gained independence in 1992. The head-to-head record favors Portugal with four wins, while the Czech Republic’s only victory came during their first meeting in 1996. This upcoming tie marks their fourth time meeting at the Euros and fans will seek to get their hands on Czech Republic tickets as Narodak takes on a star-studded Portugal squad. The Portuguese are, of course, favorites to win this matchup and clinch the top spot in this group, and they’ll hope to put the world on notice against a Czech Republic side that is picking up momentum at the right time.

With both sides in brilliant form heading into the tournament, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. As the world awaits this exciting clash, we provide a detailed analysis of what to expect from both sides when they meet next Tuesday.

Portugal’s Perfect Euro Qualifying Campaign

The Selecao clinched the top spot in Group J during the Euro Qualifiers and were the only team to clinch their ticket to Germany with a perfect record. To put this in perspective, only seven other teams have managed this feat in the history of the Qualifiers, with Spain and Italy being the only teams to translate their 100% qualifying record to a European Championship crown.

Roberto Martinez’s men also scored the most goals en route to qualification and conceded the least. Cristiano Ronaldo led the charge with 10 goals, trailing only Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (14) for the top spot. Bruno Fernandes also scored six goals and led all players in the qualifiers in assists (8).

While they had fairly easy opponents, with their toughest opponents being Slovakia, the Euro 2016 champions boast a squad that could square up with other elites. Their most recent 2-1 loss to Croatia last week might pose a little bit of a concern, but they returned to winning ways with a win against the Republic of Ireland in their final preparation match before the Euros.

Czech Republic on a Five-Game Winning Streak

The Czech Republic shocked the world during the last Euros, going as far as the quarterfinal under former coach Jaroslav Silhavy. But Czech failed to qualify for the World Cups and were a shadow of their Euro 2020 selves during the Euro Qualifiers. Despite leading the team to Euros, a tournament they have always featured at since their independence, Silhavy tendered his resignation after a 3-0 win against Moldova. 

Ivan Hasek, who had managed the national team temporarily in 2009, was appointed as the new head coach, and has since revived Narodak. Since losing to Albania in October, Hasek has led them to six wins in their last seven games, including their last five games. Their most recent outings saw them demolish Malta 7-1 on June 7, and was followed by a 2-1 win over North Macedonia three days later.

The Euro 1996 runners-up will hope to continue along this path as they seek to make it past the group stage in back-to-back tournaments.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes in Portugal’s Expected Starting XI

Roberto Martinez confirmed his 26-man squad ahead of the deadline set by UEFA, and will be pleased to field a group of talented and experienced players. Starting in front of goal, the Selecao have one of the best goalkeeper sets coming into the tournament, with Diogo Costa, Rui Patricio, and Jose Sa all in the squad. The Porto young stopper is tipped to start ahead of his compatriots, however, as was the case throughout the qualifiers.

Costa will also have strong defenders to look after him, with Ruben Dias starting at center back, while Joao Cancelo (LB) and Diogo Dalot (RB) uphold the flanks. Dias’ companion could be up in the air at the Euros, with Sporting CB Goncalo Inacio, Benfica’s Antonio Silva, and the experienced Pepe all on the roster. However, Roberto Martinez is likely to select Inacio as he did against Croatia a few days ago.

Bruno Fernandes has played in all games since Martinez became head coach and is the only player guaranteed a starting spot in midfield. In a 4-3-3 formation, Vitinha and Joao Palhinha will be most preferred to join Manchester United’s talisman, although the former Belgium manager could fit in any of Ruben Neves, Otavio, Joao Neves, or Danilo Pereira as replacements.

Cristiano Ronaldo has continued to respond to the doubters under Martinez, scoring a brace in Portugal’s most recent outing against Northern Ireland. It is clear that Martinez prefers the all-time top international goalscorer upfront, starting him in all of Portugal’s most important games. The 39-year-old will be tasked with leading Portugal’s attack as he has done for the most part of his illustrious career, with Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and Joao Felix supporting him. Portugal can also count on players like Rafael Leao, Diogo Jota, and Goncalo Ramos when the need arises.

Captain Tomáš Souček to Lead Czech Republic’s Starting XI vs. Portugal

Hasek will likely utilize a 3-4-1-2 formation against Portugal. Jindrich Stanek is expected to be the starting goalkeeper ahead of Matej Kovar, whose duties at Bayer Leverkusen were restricted to DFB Pokal games last season. Narodak has a couple of options at center back with David Zima, Tomas Holes, and Tomas Vlcek fit for the Euros. Hasek can take advantage of their familiarity, with all three players being regular starters at the back for Slavia Prague. Sparta Prague duo Ladislav Krejci and Martin Vitík could also see some minutes if their services are required on the pitch.

Tomáš Souček’s 65 caps for the Czech Republic mean he is the most experienced player in the squad, and he is expected to lead Narodak’s midfield. Slavia Prague’s Luka Sadilek is expected to join Soucek in defensive midfield, but he faces competition from club teammate Luka Provod. Vladimir Coufal has been recalled to the squad following a ban from the national team and will play on the right wing, while Matej Sadilek will be Hasek’s starting attacking midfielder.

Pavel Sulc will support Bayer Leverkusen duo Patrik Schick and Adam Hlozek in attack. Hasek can also utilize Matej Jurasek, Tomas Chory, and promising forward Mojmir Chytil as substitutes against Portugal.