The Euro 2016 football has reached the last eight stage and the games kick-off on tonight, as Poland and Portugal go head-to-head at the Stade Velodrome.
Poland needed a penalty shoot-out to make it past Switzerland in the round of 16. The game ended 1-1 in normal and extra-time. Poland had more possession in the first half and took the lead on 39 minutes.
Winger Kamil Grosicki crossed the ball from the left to the far post to Dortmund star Jakub Blaszczykowski and the winger put the ball through the legs of Swiss ‘keeper Yann Sommer. Switzerland came out with more purpose in the second period.
Vladimir Petkovic’s team hit the bar on 79 minutes through striker Haris Seferovic. However, they were level just three minutes later and in spectacular style. Full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner produced a cross to the 18-yard box and Stoke playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri moved his body in the air to produce a powerful overhead kick.
Neither team could find a breakthrough in extra-time, so the game went to penalties. New Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka blazed his spot-kick well of goal and was the only player miss in the shoot-out. The winning spot-kick was scored by midfielder Poland captain Grzegorz Krychowiak.
The draw against Switzerland was the first time Poland had conceded, as the Poles had kept clean sheets in all three of their group games. The Polish defence will not be easy to breakdown.
Poland will take heart from the fact that they are unbeaten in their last three international games against Portugal and have suffered just one defeat in the last five international meetings with Thursday’s opponents.
At the other end of the pitch Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has struggled have an impact in France, despite enjoying another prolific campaign in the Bundesliga. Strike-partner Arkadiusz Milik is also highly-rated, but has scored just once at Euro 20016.
The pair will need to produce better displays if Poland are to progress to the semi-finals of the competition. One player that has impressed in France is Blaszczykowski, with the winger scoring twice in the four games so far. He will be hopeful of adding to his tally against a suspect Portugal defence.
Portugal made it through to the quarter-finals by beating Croatia 1-0 in extra-time. The game was a rather tepid affair. Croatia winger Ivan Perisic headed against the woodwork before the deadlock was finally broken with just three minutes of the extra-time period remaining.
Inevitably Cristiano Ronaldo was involved, as the Real Madrid star saw an effort on goal well-saved by Danijel Subasic, only for Ricardo Quaresma to head home the rebound from close-range.
Portugal have been less than convincing in France, having failed to record a win in normal time at Euro 2016, but are somehow still in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Ronaldo has not enjoyed the best of campaigns in France. However, there have been signs of the Los Blancos star returning to form, as he now has two goals and an assist in his last two games. He has a major challenge ahead to add to that tally against a resilient Polish backline.
Poland have a few selections dilemmas heading into this clash. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is now fit, but former-Arsenal teammate Lukasz Fabianski is likely to keep his starting role.
In midfield Bartosz Kapustka is back from suspension, although Rennes winger Kamil Grosicki may keep his place in the starting line-up following a decent performance against Switzerland.
Portugal have a few doubts heading into this crucial clash. Full-back Raphael Guerreiro has missed the last few games through injury and he looks set to miss out again, with the experienced Eliseu expected to continue in his stead.
Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho missed the win over Croatia and is again doubtful for the clash, as is fellow midfielder Andre Gomes, although the Valencia star is expected to recover in time to feature.
This clash is a highly unpredictable one with neither team a big favourite, even if the bookmakers favour the Portuguese.
It promises to be a highly intriguing football clash and with two of the world’s top forwards in the world on display in Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski there could be fireworks in Marseille.