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‘Just huge quality’: Captain wary of facing Man United’s ‘big star’ at Euro 2024

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The summer is supposed to be the time when Premier League players can sleep a little easier, in the knowledge that they will not have to go face-to-face with the Manchester United star for a few months at least.

West Ham’s Tomas Soucek, then, may have been cursing his luck when the draw was made for the 2024 European Championships.

Now the captain of the Czech Republic, Soucek will – not for the first time – be going into battle with Bruno Fernandes in the midfield battleground tonight; this Czech team looking very much like a blunt pocket knife going up against Portugal’s machine gun artillery.

Fernandes, Manchester United‘s FA Cup winning captain, has been in remarkable form for his country of late. Going into Portugal’s long-awaited Euro 2024 opener, the former Sporting Lisbon talisman has accumulated a remarkable 18 goals or assists in his last 13 caps.

Rather fittingly, Roberto Martinez‘s tireless marathon man kicks off his tournament at the Red Bull Arena. And Soucek is under no illusions about the size of the task facing he and the Czech team-mates attempting to keep Bruno Fernandes quiet.

Bruno Fernandes of Portugal poses for a portrait during the Portugal Portrait session ahead of the UEFA EURO 2024 Germany on June 09, 2024 in Lisbo...

Photo by Aitor Alcalde – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Manchester United captain kicks off his Euro 2024 tonight

“They have repeatedly shown high quality over the past few years,” Soucek tells iSport. “And (Cristiano) Ronaldo? The biggest Portuguese star of the last twenty years. For this, he scored the most goals of all players in the world.

“Another big star is Bruno Fernandes.”

Arguably no team in the tournament except maybe France and England can rival Portugal when it comes to attacking depth. Remarkably, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Goncalo Ramos and Pedro Neto – guaranteed starters for the vast majority of the contenders in Germany – are not even guaranteed starters under Martinez.

“Portugal is no longer just about the two of them (Ronaldo and Fernandes),” adds Soucek. “They also have (Bernardo) Silva, Leao… Just huge quality up front and at the back. We cannot underestimate such a team.

“On the other hand, we are also aware of our strengths. We will focus not only on the opponent, but also on ourselves.”

  • READ MORE: Who is Bruno Fernandes? Inside the life of Manchester United’s Portuguese Magnifico

Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo lead Portugal charge

Slovakia produced the first real shock of the Euros on Monday when they defeated Belgium with a fierce rearguard effort and admittedly a helping hand from VAR. An unfancied Czech Republic side will need similar resolve to keep Ronaldo and Fernandes off the scoresheet, however, the former breaking the 50-goal barrier for Al-Nassr last term as he continued to prove that age really is just a number.

“We all know what quality (Ronaldo) has,” adds Soucek, who’s West Ham side lost 3-0 to an Alejandro Garnacho-inspired Man United back in February.

“When he gets space, especially in the box, he just scores. We can’t leave him even a centimetre of space. We have to double up on him. It will be one of our goals, but we also have to stop Ronaldo’s team-mates.”

  • READ: Manchester United stars at Euro 2024, fixtures, kick-off times

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