Euro 2024: Ronaldo on verge of European Championship record as Portugal opens vs. Czech Republic

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo can become the first player to feature at six European Championships when Portugal opens its campaign against the Czech Republic. But Ronaldo is not the only danger for the Czechs, who are making their eighth consecutive appearance. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Tuesday. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— This will be the fourth meeting between the countries at the tournament. The Czechs won the first 1-0 in 1996, and Portugal won in 2008 and 2012. Portugal has won the last four meetings between the teams, without conceding in the last three.

— Both teams reached the knockout stage of the 2021 European Championship, with defending champion Portugal losing to Belgium in the round of 16 while the Czechs lost in the quarterfinals to Denmark.

— While Portugal won Euro 2016, the Czechs need to go back to 1976 for their triumph when they were part of Czechoslovakia. Antonín Panenka scored the winning penalty in the shootout against West Germany by softly dinking the ball through the middle while the goalkeeper dived to the side. Other players like Spain’s Sergio Ramos have since tried their luck scoring “Panenka” penalties.

— Spanish coach Roberto Martínez was in charge of the Belgium team that knocked Portugal out of the last edition. He’s now the Portugal coach, and his team eased through qualifying for Euro 2024 as the only team to win every game. Martínez’ side scored 36 goals and conceded only two as it qualified with three matches to spare.

— Even without Ronaldo, Portugal boasts a formidable attacking lineup with Barcelona’s João Félix, Paris Saint-Germain’s Gonçalo Ramos and Milan’s Rafael Leão all providing options for Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

— But it’s clear Ronaldo is still the main attraction for fans. Police had to intervene to remove some enamored supporters from Portugal’s open training session in Gütersloh on Saturday when they ran onto the field to take selfies with the Portugal star. Some 8,000 fans attended the training session.

— Turkey and Georgia are the other teams in Group F. They meet earlier Tuesday in Dortmund.

Team news

— Czech Republic coach Ivan Hašek has no injury problems to worry about but said he was going to see how Monday’s final training session went before deciding on his starting lineup. “I know that we have 26 players who can play tomorrow,” he said.

— Portugal counterpart Roberto Martínez also has a full contingent to choose from, but he did not confirm on Monday whether Ronaldo or veteran defender Pepe would play.

By the numbers

— Ronaldo, who made his tournament debut at Euro 2004 where Portugal reached the final, already has the records for the most goals (14) and appearances (25) at the tournament. The 39-year-old forward showed he’s not finished yet by scoring two goals as Portugal warmed up with a 3-0 win over Ireland.

— Ronaldo bagged five goals at the 2021 European Championship, the same as Czech striker Patrik Schick to share the top-scorer award. Schick is again the main target for the Czech team and arrives at the tournament full of confidence after helping Bayer Leverkusen win the Bundesliga.

— Brazil-born center back Pepe could become the oldest player to feature at a European Championship if he plays on Tuesday. Pepe will be 41 years, 113 days and could take the record from Hungary goalkeeper Gábor Király, who was 40 years, 86 days when he played against Belgium in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

What they’re saying

“We all know the kind of quality we have. We know that we can go on to do something special. But it all depends on our ability to come together.” — Portugal defender Rúben Dias.

“The key is the mix of experience and new talent. And I think our team does it perfectly. Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Pepe bring experience that nobody else has. They’re the two oldest players in the tournament.” — Portugal coach Roberto Martínez.

“The Portuguese players are famous. They are popular all over the world. We’re not. We have to face them. We have to play as a team. That’s the only chance.” — Czech Republic coach Ivan Hašek.

“We know there is always a chance in football. There is always a chance to win. Even if you’re an underdog. Even if you’re considered the worst team and playing against the best, there is always a chance.” — Czech Republic midfielder Tomáš Souček.


AP Euro 2024:

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