Czechs aim to defy underdog status vs Portugal

Associated Press Modified: June 18, 2012 at 9:19 am •  Published: June 18, 2012
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WROCLAW, Poland (AP) — With Cristiano Ronaldo finally finding his scoring touch, Portugal is widely expected to knock the Czech Republic out of the European Championship when the teams meet in the quarterfinals.

That sounds familiar to the Czechs.

They were underdogs when they faced the same opponents in the last eight at Euro 1996, but stunned Portugal's supposed golden generation which included Luis Figo and Rui Costa before progressing to the final.

The Czechs can look back to the class of '96 as a source of inspiration ahead of Thursday's match in Warsaw.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech said Monday the team will be fighting to defy its underdog status and reach the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 2004.

"It's clear who the favorites are," Cech said. "But we'll be trying to prove that the favorites don't have to necessarily always win. This is a particularly strong opponent but we haven't lost yet."

The Czechs aren't considered to be title contenders this year and looked set for an early exit from the tournament when they lost 4-1 to Russia in their first match. However, victories over Greece and co-host Poland took them to the quarterfinals.

The Czech Republic also started the 1996 tournament in England as the undisputed outsider and lost its opening group-stage match to Germany, before eliminating Italy, Russia, Portugal and France en route to losing in the final to Germany.

The Czechs frustrated Portugal in that campaign by adopting defensive tactics and converting its only opportunity — Karel Poborsky's spectacular lob over goalkeeper Vitor Baia.

"We find ourselves in the same situation like in 1996," said Bayer Leverkusen defender Michal Kadlec, whose father captained the Czechs that year. "We have a good reason to think about it."

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