Captain Gioros Karagounis scored the only goal in Greece’s shock 1-0 win over Russia Saturday. His goal sends Greece into the last eight (Image |

The first half of the UEFA European Championships quarter-final draw was decided over the weekend with one major surprise – the disappearance of Russia from the tournament at the first hurdle. After two games, and particularly their scintilating performance against the Czech Republic on the first day, many – including TAP’s own Ian Hobbs – fancied them as dark horses for the crown. But a dour showing against Greece on Saturday, combined with the Czech Republic’s triumph over co-hosts Poland, saw them eliminated.

With two giants emerging from Group B, it’s hard to see either Group A side advancing past the last eight.

Thursday 21st June – Warsaw – Czech Republic vs. Portugal

The first quarter-final sees two teams coming into their stride at the right time and has the making of a cracking tie. The Czechs, in truth, were lucky to top their group and were abysmal against Russia. However they bounced back well with a disciplined victory against Greece and coped well with the zealous home crowd in beating Poland 1-0. The Czechs have the momentum of two victories on the bounce and should come into the game with confidence.

Portugal emerged as runners up in Group B, the so-called ‘group of death’. Portugal were poor against Germany, but responded with a highly impressive first half against Denmark. A lapse in concentration in the second half nearly cost them, but Sylvestre Varela’s 87th minute strike secured a 3-2 win. After going a goal down against Holland the Portuguese played some brilliant football, dominating the game and earning a deserved victory following a brace from the ever-mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo.

Key Men

Czech Republic: Petr Cech – Against Poland the Chelsea shot-stopper had to make a number of smart saves to keep the Czechs from going behind. With all Portugal’s attacking prowess and a somewhat fragile defence in front of him Cech will have to produce the world-class form we all know he is capable of to keep the Czech’s in the game.

With two goals in Portugal’s decisive victory over the Netherlands, Cristiano Ronaldo is hitting his stride at the perfect time for Portugal (Image | AP)

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo – The second best player in the world needs no introduction and it is no surprise that his form and Portugal’s success are intimately entwined. Against Denmark, Ronaldo could have scored a dozen and was visibly irritated by chants of ‘Messi, Messi’ from the crowd. His response to this was a stunning performance against Holland, clinically taking his two scoring opportunities, whilst being at the heart of every Portuguese attack. If Ronaldo purrs Portugal will win easily.

Odds at William Hill: Czech Republic 9/2, Portugal 8/11

Prediction: Portugal will be nervy, but have more than enough attacking class to see of the Czechs: PORTUGAL 2 – 1 CZECH REPUBLIC

Friday 22nd June – Gdansk – Germany vs. Greece

Germany have been dangerously strong thus far. Efficiently disposing of Portugal, ruthlessly beating the Dutch and patiently breaking-down Denmark. Mario Gomez has scored two goals and seems to have brought his Bayern Munich form to the tournament. Their defence, particularly the young Mats Hummels and captain Philip Lahm have been concrete as ever, only conceding two goals in a group full of attacking potency. As arguably the most successful tournament football team Germany’s form should be no surprise.

The progress of the embattled Greek nation to the quarter finals is the fairytale story of this year’s championships. With a nation looking for anything to smile about, thankfully football has provided it. In all honestly the Greeks have not played great football but after a draw with the Poles and a smash-and-grab victory against Russia, the find themselves in the knockout stage of the tournament. The Greeks can take inspiration from their 2004 side who miraculously won the competition in similar circumstances.

Pass master Bastien Schweinsteiger is one of the creative forces at the fulcrum of Germany’s potent attack (Image | Getty)

Key Men

Germany: Bastian Schweinsteiger – The central midfielder is one of the world’s best passers and his distribution is integral in getting Germany moving forward. Schweinsteiger is the perfect balance to the more attacking Mesut Ozil and more defensive Sami Khedira who’s efficient presence in the centre of Germany’s midfield is key to their tactical discipline and ultimate success.

Greece: Dimitris Salpingidis – The Greek winger changed the game when he came on against Poland and rightfully started the next two matches. With captain Giorgos Karagounis suspended, Salpingidis is the most likely Greek to provide an attacking threat. If he can carry his group stage form into this match he could cause Germany’s defence problems.

Odds at William Hill: Germany 1/3 Greece 10/1

Prediction: Germany are a much, much better side than Greece and will end their tournament with a typically professional performance. GERMANY 3 – 0 GREECE

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