Like so many game at this tournament, like so many games in modern football, the Euro 2012 quarter-final between Portugal and the Czech Republic became a simple game of attack against defence, of the proactive Portuguese against the reactive Czechs.
Unlike other games - Denmark against the Netherlands, England against France, even Portugal against Germany - it wasn't a set up that created interest or excitement, simply because the Czechs posed no threat. After the first 20 minutes or so, there were no breakaways, no set-plays that might have caused a doubt. There was merely one side pummelling the other and, eventually, that side scored.
In the group stage, the strength of Portugal had been the link-up of Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao on the left, while the strength of the Czech Republic had been on the right, with Petr Jiracek cutting infield and Theodor Gebre-Selassie over lapping from full-back. It seemed logical that the battle would be won and lost on that flank but Ronaldo barely played there. From his point of view, this was an extraordinary display. He played on the left wing, he played as a centre-forward and he played almost as a classic number 10, interchanging almost seamlessly between the three roles.
"The players have tasks on the pitch in a dynamic game," said the Portugal coach Paulo Bento. "Cristiano Ronaldo played accordingly to that to our tactical system. He has the capacity to play in the penalty area but also a little bit deeper - and this depends on the analysis of the player. For the first 20-25 minutes in the first half it was very intense but at the same time we showed a great capacity to react to the Czechs. That's why we qualified for the semi-final. "
Had Gebre-Selassie played with the freedom he had in earlier games, had he not suffered his poorest game of the championship, had the Czechs ever had any control of the ball, perhaps Ronaldo's loose interpretation of his role would have proved a liability. After all, all four of the goals Portugal have conceded in this championship have come down from their left while Lars Jacobsen, Denmark's right-back, got forward again and again during the second group game.
Frankly, though, the Czechs simply weren't good enough to exploit what could be a flaw - albeit one with many advantages - something their coach, Michal Bilek acknowledged when pressed on Gebre-Selassie's performance. "Ronaldo is a very good player," he said. "He doesn't have any problems when he penetrates the defence. Ronaldo is a better player - he knows how to play with his head and with both feet."
It wasn't just Gebre-Selassie at fault, though, nervous as he looked, overrunning the ball on occasions, snatching at clearances, attempting a weird backheeled flick clearance in his own box. "If we played the game again, I wouldn't really change tactics," Bilek said. "Playing against a side like Portugal, if you open the game they punish you, they know how to counterattack and it's very hard to stop them. All teams who play Portugal show this. We faced opponents who were better than us. They showed it in the second half. We didn't have the energy and we couldn't react. We knew that we weren't really on their level."
At half-time, there was perhaps just a thought that the Czech Republic might hold out, might somehow conjure a chance that would turn the game. But by the time Ronaldo finally headed the winner with 11 minutes to go, the Portuguese victory had long felt inevitable. "The question at half-time was to create more possibilities and chances for shots on goal," Paulo Bento explained. "This game was very different from the one against Holland - as we expected, the Czechs played deeper. They pressed against us when we went out of our half but then in the second half we had more chances to create our game. I explained something at half-time about the offence. We had always been good in the defence, but we showed what was possible in the last 20 minutes of the first half - we wanted to show that in the second half and we knew if we did that we could create a lot of chances."
The key, really, was to balance the need to get more bodies forward with the requirement not to leave themselves as open at the back as, say, Barcelona did at stages of the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. Fabio Coentrao had pushed on from the start but Joao Pereira pushed further and further forward from right-back to the extent that in the final 15 minutes of the game, his average field position was inside the Czech half. Bruno Alves and Pepe, though, remained deep in their own half; they might only have been marking the increasingly slow and cumbersome Milan Baros, but they were taking no chances.
With Rosicky injured, Bilek opted for Vladimir Darida in the central creative role rather than using Daniel Kolar or deploying Jan Rezek on the right and moving Jiracek into the middle. "Darida started because we wanted to defend more and that's where he is more useful for us than Kolar," Bilek said. "He knows how to play, how to finish, how to shoot from middle distance. That's why we put him in; the fact he's only played twice for the national team didn't make a difference. He played well, performed well but unfortunately we never had ball possession we needed. It was like waiting for the opponent to score and that's why we brought on Rezek [after 61 minutes] because he knows how to counter-attack."
There may have been logic to that but the Czechs simply never had enough possession to apply any pressure. Without Darida's harrying, the Portuguese domination of midfield was even greater than it had been before, their three (in the 4-3-3) pushing on the two in the Czechs' 4-2-3-1. That allowed Joao Moutinho to get forward even more and it was his cross, from Nani's pass, that brought the Ronaldo goal.
It was hard to criticise Bilek, though; the Czechs were just beaten by a far better team.