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4 reasons why Portugal will beat Poland

Poland vs. Portugal: 4 reasons why CR7 and co. will come out on top

June 30, 2016 By Michelle Bonsu
Poland and Portugal will face off for the first time in a European championship this Thursday. Who will prevail? We've got 4 reasons why it could be Portugal...

For most football fans, the past 72 hours may have felt like an eternity. Well, fear not. Euro 2016 is back in action, with eight teams vying to be crowned champions of Europe on July 10th. First up will feature Poland taking on Portugal in an intriguing quarter-finals clash at the Stade Vélodrome. And it goes without saying that each side have experienced vastly different tournaments thus far.

Both Poland and Portugal will be coming into this match sans defeat. However, the former made it through the group stages unscathed, whilst the latter barely scraped through. Still, both endured grueling round of 16 ties that were not able to be settled within regulation time this past Saturday. Adam Nawalka's men held their nerve to beat Switzerland during a spot-kick shootout, with the White Eagles achieving a 100 per cent conversion rate. Meanwhile, Fernando Santos's side prevailed after a tough battle with Croatia, thanks to a late, late goal at the 117th minute. 

This will be the third meeting between Poland and Portugal at a major tournament, but their first at a European competition. Both have one victory each: Poland edged out Portugal 1-0 at the 1986 World Cup, and Portugal steamrolled Poland 4-0 at the same tournament 16 years later. Whoever prevails in this match not only will have the edge in the head-to-head series but more important, book their spot in the semi-finals. But who will come out on top? 

Well, it just may be Portugal. And here are four reasons why they could edge out Poland: 

The experience factor

One thing Portugal do have in their favor is experience and tactical nous. Although Croatian fans - and players - were bitter with the way the Vatreni lost, they have shown that despite having one of the best attackers in the world, Portugal have no problem "playing ugly". Furthermore, they are the only team to have made it to at least the quarter-finals in every single tournament since 1996. Should they make it to the next round, it not only will be their second consecutive semi-finals approach but also their fourth overall since first qualifying back in 1984.

But will this be enough to help the  knockout stage veterans trump the new boys? Let's take a look at a few more reasons: 

Misfiring Lewandowski

Lots of top players have struggled so far at Euro 2016. Just look at Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose international career ended on a sour note. Despite plundering goals for fun this past season with PSG, the 34-year-old was unable to score nor inspire Sweden to a single win as they crashed out. 

Robert Lewandowski falls into that category. After an impressive season with Bayern Munich, which saw him become the first player in nearly 40 years to score 30 goals in the Bundesliga, there was much expected of the Polish star. Furthermore, his 13 goals during qualifying made him the top goalscorer, and greatly contributed to their 33 overall. 

However, since arriving in France, it's been nothing but frustration, frustration, and more frustration for Lewandowski. Despite definitely playing an instrumental role in Poland's success, he has yet to find the back of the net. And as we all know, strikers are not judged on how much space they create for their teammates. They're judged on how many goals they accumulate, and right now, for Lewandowski, it's been 643 minutes since he last netted against Greece at Euro 2012.

Frustration: Lewandowski's ongoing goal drought will be concerning for his team, Polish fans, and the player himself

Although Poland have shown that they can find the goals from elsewhere, Lewandowski's colleagues have been very guilty of some awful misses. Their profligacy - with Arkadiusz Milik being a chief offender - could cost them dearly against a Portuguese side who will be making sure that their opportunities are few and far between.

A very motivated Cristiano Ronaldo

We certainly can't talk about Portugal without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo, and why not? After all, he's their all-time top goalscorer and most capped player. He's the team skipper. And he's the reason why Portugal are even in the knockout rounds. 

CR7's brace against Hungary kept Portugal afloat and avoid an embarrassing early exit. And his attempt on goal - the only in that dour match with Croatia - was turned in on the rebound to keep their tournament ambitions alive.

Leading by example: Cristiano Ronaldo's brace salvaged Portugal from elimination at Euro 2016

The Real Madrid star, who was on the team when they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Greece during the 2004 final, will have his own extra motivation for success on Thursday night. First of all, he has set two records and can certainly set one more - whilst clinching a coveted prize. His double versus Hungary made him the first player to score at four Euro tournaments, and he also has made the most appearances (18) than anyone else. 

Right now, he's on eight goals. Should he score, he will at least tie Michel Platini's record of nine. And with fans and critics alike awaiting to see him unleash his true form, Poland just may be the first opponent to witness that.

A solid supporting cast

A star can't shine without a supporting cast. In Portugal's case, they have scored a total of five goals so far at Euro 2016. Two, as we noted before, were from CR7. But the other three were netted by Nani and Ricardo Quaresma.

Nani's opener ended up being the saving grace for Portugal against plucky Iceland. And Quaresma - who had come on as a substitute - headed in the follow-up to seal the win for his side after a gritty match against Croatia. He also chipped in - also from off the bench - with an assist during the 3-3 draw with Hungary.

Ricardo Quaresma's late goal was enough to book Portugal's spot in the quarter-finals

So there we have it: experience, Lewandowski's frustration, Cristiano Ronaldo's motivation, and a good supporting cast. All four are certainly good reasons why Portugal could edge Poland in the battle for a semi-finals berth.

But will it come to pass? Well, just as those four aforementioned reasons could be the advantage Portugal need, everything could also turn on its head. Experience may not trump inexperience. Lewandowski could end up being the one on fire, whilst CR7 could find that his shooting boots have deserted him. And instead of stepping up, the supporting cast may just end up putting in a performance not fit for an encore.

Of course, if everything clicks, Portugal will be en route to the final, whilst Poland will be en route home.

Still, in the spirit of fairness, we'll also take a look at how Poland may be able to overcome Portugal...

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