Portugal have no preference over semi-final foe

Barnaby Chesterman
Portuguese head coach Paulo Bento reacts during the Euro 2012 football championships quarter-final match the Czech Republic vs Portugal at the National Stadium in Warsaw. Bento said efficiency was the key to his side's 1-0 Euro 2012 quarter-final victory over Czech Republic at the National Stadium here on Thursday

Portugal dismissed the feeble challenge posed by ultra-defensive Czech Republic and then coach Paulo Bento insisted he doesn't mind who they face next.

Cristiano Ronaldo capped a dazzling individual display, in which he twice struck the post, with the only goal of Portugal's 1-0 quarter-final victory.

Next up they will face either neighbours Spain or France, who meet in Saturday's quarter-final in Donetsk.

Spain are the holders in this competition, lifted the World Cup two years ago and are the number one team in the world.

France, on the other hand, are in the knock-out rounds of a major competition for the first time since reaching the 2006 World Cup final, where they lost to Italy on penalties.

At both the 2008 Euros and 2010 World Cup they failed to win a single game and crashed out in humiliating fashion.

And yet while the one appear to be far more fearful foes than the other, Bento says he doesn't mind which team Portugal get.

"In the semi-finals of a great tournament like this there are always great teams with different characteristics and players of great quality," said the 43-year-old former international defender, whose last experience of the Euros was in 2000 when he got a six month ban for ripping a red card out of the referee's hand in the bad-tempered climax to the semi-final with France.

"The teams are very organised and that's why I don't have any preference as to who we meet.

"We're through, we worked really hard to get here and now we must try to recover (physically) as much as possible and then we'll try to take to the field in the best conditions."

This may no longer be the golden generation of Portuguese talent -- which won successive FIFA World Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991 and went on to reach the Euro semi-finals in 2000 and the final in 2004, as well as a World Cup semi-final in 2006 -- but Bento is confident that his side can challenge anyone.

"I was never worried about these players because they have quality and work really hard," he said.

"I'm very confident in the 23 players of this squad and once again we'll show the necessary response (in the semis)."

Although Spain are undoubtedly the better side, Bento's indifference is perhaps related to Portugal's sorry history in semi-finals.

In the Euros of 1984 and 2000 and the 2006 World Cup they lost to France in the semi-finals while their only defeat to Spain in the knock-out rounds of a major competition was in the last 16 at the World Cup two years ago.

In either case, they've never beaten those teams in such an important match.

And to do so for the first time, they are going to need to play at least as well as they did against the Czechs.

Bento spoke about efficiency being the key to his side's quarter-final success and they will certainly need more of the same if they are to reach the final, as they did on home soil in 2004.

"We've always shown great efficiency in defence and that's why it's very well-deserved that we've qualified for the semi-finals," said Bento.

"The important thing (against the Czechs) was to create many possibilities and opportunities to shoot.

"This game was very different from the (group game) against Holland, we expected the Czechs to play deep.

"They pushed up against us when we went out of our half but then in the second half we had more opportunities to create chances."