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Portugal are looking to reach the last four of the European Championship for the fourth time in five tournaments as they face Poland in the quarter-final.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal reached the quarter-final after a gruelling last-16 clash with Croatia, where a 117th-minute Ricardo Quaresma goal saw them through.
Marseille will see Real Madrid forward Ronaldo up against Poland and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, with the pair hitting a combined 93 goals in the 2015/16 season for their clubs.
Poland, who have reached the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since the World Cup in 1982, beat Switzerland on penalties in the last 16.
The winners will face a semi-final clash with either Wales or Belgium, who clash in Lille on Friday night.
Lukasz Fabianski is set to continue in between the sticks for Poland as Wojciech Szczesny still struggles with a thigh injury.
Portugal have been boosted by the return of Andre Gomes and Raphael Guerreiro to training ahead. The two players joined the main group in the morning session on Wednesday after sitting out two days of practice.
Defender Guerreiro and midfielder Gomes started Portugal’s 1-0 extra-time triumph over Croatia in the last 16 but sustained minor muscular problems.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos is expected to have all his players available to face Poland on Thursday.
This will be Poland and Portugal’s third encounter at a major tournament, their first in the European Championships.
They have so far won one each: 1-0 to Poland at the 1986 World Cup and 4-0 to Portugal at the 2002 World Cup.
Poland are unbeaten in their last three head-to-heads with Portugal (W1 D2).
Poland have made it to the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time in their history. The only previous time they reached the semis of a major tournament was in the 1982 World Cup.
Poland have never scored more than one goal in a single game at the European Championship (10 games). Actually, none of their 10 games in the competition has produced more than two goals (scored + conceded).
Poland are in fact the lowest scoring side among those to have made it to the quarter-finals (3 goals in 4 games).
Poland have yet to trail at any point in a game at this year’s European Championships. They’ve only conceded one goal so far in four games.
Portugal have played the most games in the history of the European Championships without ever winning the tournament: 32 games, 0 trophy.
Poland are based in La Baule, an elegant seaside resort on the French Atlantic coast that England used as their base during the 1998 World Cup. It says something about football’s differing attitudes that Lewandowski’s strike partner, Arkadiusz Milik, was completely taken aback when a reporter from Polish television suggested he and his team-mates were on the “brink of immortality”. Ronaldo would have known precisely what the questioner was getting at.
When Poland qualified for the European Championship, Milik was asked who he wanted to play. The 22-year-old, who has worked closely with Dennis Bergkamp since arriving at Ajax, said Portugal as it would mean facing Ronaldo: “Because he is the world’s best example of what you can achieve through hard work.”
His manager, Adam Nawalka, has grown weary of being asked about Lewandowski’s form. Like Terry Venables whenever Alan Shearer’s lack of goals was questioned before Euro 96, Nawalka talks about his contribution to the team, the way he creates space for others. He cannot talk about Lewandowski’s goals because there have not been any.
Lewandowski has been the tournament’s most fouled footballer, an accolade Ronaldo would be familiar with. “Because Robert is one of the best strikers in the world he is double and sometimes triple marked,” said Nawalka, whose career unlike so many in Polish football, has been played out almost entirely in his native land. “Every attempt to tackle him is on the edge of a foul, they are trying to eliminate him at any cost. Although he is physically coping with it very well, the referees need to react quickly with yellow and red cards.” That statement was directed squarely at Pepe.
Poland, like Portugal, have a single, world-class footballer. However, Robert Lewandowski, one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the Golden Boot, has not actually managed a shot on target. Lewandowski is not backing his desire to leave Bayern Munich for Real Madrid with the kind of displays that would make Real drive up their offer to irresistible levels.
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