Published November 20, 2014
Following Portugal's 2-1 win over the Netherlands on the final day of Group B play, which allowed the team to advance to the quarterfinals, Portuguese boss Paulo Bento sounded content with what his team had accomplished.
"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 side.
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 injury.
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."