6/20/2012 7:13:04 PM
"I am proud of what we did as a team and satisfied that we have succeeded in
reaching our aim," Bento said.
Portugal's aim was to advance from the "Group of Death", which included two of
the tournament's favorites, Germany and the Netherlands, and a strong Denmark
But having overcome the odds to reach the last eight, where Portugal will face
the Czech Republic on Thursday, it would be hard to imagine Bento not
expecting his team to continue its journey.
Portugal lost its opening match to the Germans, 1-0, but rebounded to claim
wins in its next two contests, a 3-2 triumph over Denmark and the 2-1 victory
against the Dutch which moved the team into the last eight.
Sunday's win over the Netherlands was particularly impressive as Portugal
overcame an early 1-0 deficit to take control of the match.
Cristiano Ronaldo turned in the type of performance that warrants his status
as one of the best players on the planet as he scored two goals and hit the
post twice as well.
Portugal has scored five goals in its last two games and really seems to be
coming together as a team, although Bento is remaining cautious ahead of the
match with the Czechs.
"We don't claim to be favorites [against the Czech Republic] and it won't be
easy," Bento said. "We have to keep up our work and the quality that we have
shown so far. Then maybe we can even reach the semifinals. There are still a
lot of things to develop but I'm proud, like the players should be."
After a humbling 4-1 defeat against Russia on the opening day of the
tournament, the Czech Republic looked like anything but a team expecting to
reach the quarterfinals.
But coach Michal Bilek helped to turn the side around quickly, with the Czechs
rebounding to win 2-1 against Greece and then knocking off co-hosts Poland,
1-0, to book a place in the next round.
"We learned and defended much better in the next two games," Bilek said of his
team's turnaround. "The team is confident, we have faith in ourselves. We had
some difficult situations, but managed to play our way out of them as a team."
The team concept certainly has gone a long way for the Czechs, who were
without star midfielder Tomas Rosicky against Poland because of an Achilles
Rosicky is the creative force in the Czech midfield, but the team still
managed to get the job done without its influential leader, thanks in large
part to the play of fellow midfielders Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek, who have
tallied two goals apiece so far this tournament.
Bilek labeled Rosicky "irreplaceable", and although his status for Thursday's
game is still up in the air, the boss is confident his team has the ability to
extend its stay at the competition.
"The objective was to get through to the quarterfinals," Bilek said. "We
didn't expect to win the group after the first match. Now everything is
possible, so we want to continue."