WARSAW: Portugal have rallied round captain Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of today's Euro 2012 quarter-final against the Czech Republic.
It will be the third meeting between the two sides in the last five championships, with each side having won one apiece -- the most important belonging to the Czechs in the 1996 quarter-finals on their way to losing to Germany in the final.
Paulo Bento's Portugal have got where they are thanks to their team ethic and after seeing Ronaldo finally click into gear in Sunday's game against the hapless Dutch to score both goals in the 2-1 win.
They have been accused of creating a cult of personality around their 27-year-old captain but the team have circled the wagons in the face of what they see as unjustified criticism.
"The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most professional players I have ever come across," said midfielder Raul Meireles.
"He gives his all at every training session. He is our leader and, on the pitch, there is no one who wants to win more than him.
"He scored twice in the last match; before he had drawn a blank but he had still helped us out in other ways."
The Czech's outstanding goalkeeper, Petr Cech, acknowledges the Portuguese are favourites for this match and says the team are made up of more than just Ronaldo.
"They are among the world's top 10 teams. It's a team full of personalities and outstanding players and they play very well. Against the Netherlands on Sunday, they were excellent up front," said the Chelsea No 1.
"They also have enough experienced players. The team have matured and they are really strong."
Portugal received a boost in their preparations for this match as Real Madrid centre-back Pepe resumed training on Tuesday after sitting it out on Monday with sore ankles.
The news is not so good for the Czechs, though, with captain Tomas Rosicky set to miss out as he struggles to recover from an inflamed Achilles tendon.
"Will he be able to play from the start? I don't think so," said Czech team manager Vladimir Smicer. "He hasn't trained for eight days, only doing some work on a bike."
Rosicky had been receiving treatment in Prague since Sunday but is now back with the squad in Warsaw. AFP