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Portugal vs Poland: Ten players to watch out for in Euro quarterfinal

Two of Europe’s most prolific marksmen go head-to-head as Robert Lewandowski aims to end Cristiano Ronaldo’s dreams of landing an international trophy when Poland meet Portugal in a Euro 2016 quarterfinal clash on Thursday.

euro 2016 Updated: Jun 30, 2016 10:28 IST
AP
Combination picture of Portugal's captain and forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Poland's captain and forward Robert Lewandowski.
Combination picture of Portugal's captain and forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Poland's captain and forward Robert Lewandowski.(AFP Photo)

Two of Europe’s most prolific marksmen go head-to-head as Robert Lewandowski aims to end Cristiano Ronaldo’s dreams of landing an international trophy when Poland meet Portugal in a Euro 2016 quarterfinal clash on Thursday.

Here are players to watch out for in the first Euro quarterfinal match: 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the European Championship as its undisputed star. However, he has hit both highs and lows so far. Some unflattering comments on fan-favorite Iceland were followed by him grabbing a TV journalist’s microphone and apparently throwing it into a nearby lake. But he refused to let Portugal be eliminated at the group phase, scoring two goals and setting up another to secure a 3-3 draw with Hungary that sent his team through. He failed to score in the other three matches, and missed a penalty. But the Real Madrid forward did make up for a quiet match against Croatia by setting up the stoppage-time winner in the round-of-16. Against Poland, he will be aiming to equal Michel Platini’s all-time scoring record of nine goals at European Championships.

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball during a training session at the team's base camp in Marcoussis, outskirts of Paris. (AFP Photo)

Robert Lewandowski

The star striker is making headlines for the wrong reasons in France. After scoring 13 times in qualification — more than any other player in the competition — Lewandowski is goalless at Euro 2016. The Bayern Munich striker has never stopped working and his runs have opened up space for teammates — coach Adam Nawalka has said he is doing “phenomenal work” in that role — but he will be keen to get off the mark against Portugal.

Poland's Robert Lewandowski during training at the Olympic Marseille training ground. (Reuters Photo)

Pepe

Portugal doesn’t have the tightest of defenses, but the player who most often rescues his teammates at the last second is Pepe. The centerback is the heart of Portugal’s defense and a steady hand in comparison to Ricardo Carvalho, who was dropped for the last match against Croatia. Along with Ronaldo and goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Pepe is the only other Portugal player to have played every minute of the competition for coach Fernando Santos. He will be charged with making sure Poland striker Robert Lewandowski doesn’t finally rediscover his scoring touch in Marseille.

Portugal's Pepe (right) reacts as Croatia's Mario Mandzukic looks on during their Euro 2016 match at Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens, France. (Reuters Photo)

Jakub Blaszczykowski

Poland may only have scored three times in four games, but Blaszczykowski has been the standout player in attack, scoring goals against Switzerland and Ukraine, in the latter game as substitute. He set up Poland’s only other goal at Euro 2016 with a pinpoint cross for Arkadiusz Milik in its Group C opener against Northern Ireland. With Lewandowski often marked intensely, Blaszczykowski could be key. Poland has never lost a game when Blaszczykowski has scored.

Poland's midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski celebrates after his team's victory during the Euro 2016 round of sixteen football match Switzerland vs Poland at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne. (AFP Photo)

Nani

Always in Ronaldo’s shadow, Nani has been Portugal’s most consistent attacking player in France. The winger scored Portugal’s first goal of the competition in a 1-1 draw with Iceland, and he started its fightback against Hungary with another goal. He celebrated his 100th appearance with the national side by launching the move that led to Ricardo Quaresma’s winner to oust Croatia in the round of 16.

Portugal's forward Nani celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2016 group F football match between Hungary and Portugal at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon. (AFP Photo)

Lukasz Fabianski

He wasn’t Poland’s first-choice goalkeeper when the tournament started, but Fabianski has become a key member of the team since Wojciech Szczesny hurt his thigh in the first game. He kept clean sheets against world champion Germany and against Ukraine. The only goal he has conceded outside a penalty shootout was the spectacular overhead kick scored by Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri in the round of 16. He didn’t need to make a save in the 5-4 shootout win over the Swiss, the only miss coming when Granit Xhaka skewed his spot kick wide of the post.

Poland's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski reacts as Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka (not pictured) failed to score during penalty shoot-out during the Euro 2016 round of sixteen football match between Switzerland and Poland. (AFP Photo)

William Carvalho

Portuguese teenager Renato Sanches got all the attention following the 18-year-old’s move to Bayern Munich last month. And while Sanches has provided glimpses of promise coming off the bench, William Carvalho has quietly impressed as a serious, disciplined defensive midfielder. After not playing a minute in Portugal’s opener, Carvalho has been the focal point of Portugal’s midfield. The 24-year-old is second only to Pepe in passes attempted and completed, with a completion rate of 92%.

Portugal's William Carvalho (right) and Austria's David Alaba vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 Group F football match between Portugal and Austria at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (AP Photo)

Grzegorz Krychowiak

The defensive mid fielder’s boundless energy has been crucial for Poland, which has only conceded one goal in open play — Shaqiri’s stunner. In attack, his smart passing helped the team to dominate Northern Ireland, earning him a man of the match award. Krychowiak, a two-time Europa League winner with Sevilla, also blocked out the pressure to score the decisive penalty in the shoot out against Switzerland.

Poland's Grzegorz Krychowiak during training at Stade Moreau-Defarges, La Baule-Escoublac. (Reuters Photo)

Ricardo Quaresma

With only one start in four matches, Ricardo Quaresma has provided some much needed spark off the bench. The forward went on against Hungary and made an excellent cross for Ronaldo to score his second goal and seal the draw. Quaresma then had his moment to shine when he scored the injury-time goal to send Portugal past Croatia and into the final eight.

Portugal's forward Ricardo Quaresma celebrates after scoring during the round of sixteen football match Croatia against Portugal of the Euro 2016 football tournament. (AFP Photo)

Bartosz Kapustka

Poland’s youngest player at just 19 years, Kapustka put in an eye-catching performance in his team’s 1-0 opening win against Northern Ireland, earning plaudits from former England defender Rio Ferdinand, who called him a “very clever, composed and skillful player,” in comments on Twitter. Former England striker Gary Lineker labeled Kapustka a “deliciously talented 19 year old.” But since then, Kapustka has only showed fleeting glimpses of that talent and missed the Switzerland game through suspension.

Poland's midfielder Bartosz Kapustka (left) attempts a tackle on Northern Ireland's defender Conor McLaughlin during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice. (AFP Photo)

Read | Euro 2016: Ronaldo vs Lewandowski as Portugal face Poland for semis berth

(With inputs from AFP)