Euro 2012 Semi-final Preview: Portugal vs Spain

The Iberian peninsula will descend on the Donbass Arena as Spain and Portugal go head-to-head in the first semi-final of the tournament. Portugal who played their own Quarter-final match last thursday have had an extra 48 hours rest over their opponent and it remains to be seen how much effect this will have on Wednesday night. Spain on the other hand have their eyes firmly set on rewriting the history books by becoming the first national team to win three successive major titles.

It’s the Tiki-Taka up against Counter-attacking football, add the fact that it’s a derby and you can expect a spectacle of a game between these two teams who can lay claim to many of the best players in the world.

SPAIN

The Spaniards beat France quite comfortably in their Quarter-final match courtesy of a brace from the indefatigable Xabi Alonso. The Spanish defence that has looked shaky sometimes during the group stage matches dealt conveniently with everything thrown at them by the French side as the partnership between Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in centre-defence seems to be clicking at just the right time.

Spin beat Ireland 4-0 with their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation but have only recorded slim victories with the now popular false nine system. What this system guarantees is a big chunk of possession for Spain which makes it difficult for opponents to do anything meaningful with the ball whenever they eventually get it back. I’m no fan of the false nine system but I think we can all agree it has got Spain this far in this tournament and Vicente Del Bosque is most likely to stick with it in this semi-final match.

The Spanish team looked tired and exhausted in the concluding stages of their Quarter-final win over France and going up against a strong, aggressive Portuguese side, the Spaniards can only afford to have fit players on the pitch or they could be run over.

Spain should name an unchanged side for this match. I have a feeling Vicente Del Bosque feels at home playing the false nine system against the stronger sides in order to starve them of the ball. The essence of this system is passing football and keeping possession so I expect Fernando Torres to start from the bench again.

PORTUGAL

Paulo Bento’s team has steadily improved since the loss at the hands of Germany in their first match of the tournament. They were especially better in their Quarter-final match against Czech Republic and on another day would have scored more than once.

This is Portugal’s toughest task yet and it’s a match where Paulo Bento’s tactical acumen will be brought to the fore. Playing against Spain and conquering them will require some relentless defending and and a solid counter-attacking game plan. The centre-defence partnership of Pepe and Bruno Alves must hold their own against the marauding Spanish midfielders; while Meireles, Veloso and Moutinho will be required to provide adequate cover when defending, they must also be alert to receive the ball and initiate quick counter-attacking moves. Nani and Ronaldo have got to play very well on thursday night and the whole of the Portuguese nation should pray Almeida put away the chances when they appear.

CRISTIANO RONALDO is certainly the key man for Portugal. The Real Madrid man has finally delivered in a major tournament with his country silencing his critics in the process . He is in very good form at the moment, he has scored thrice (all in his last two matches), hit the post four times and has taken more shots than any other player in the competition. He seems to be the only man in the Portuguese camp that can breach the impenetrable defence of the Spaniards, tough task but not impossible for a player of Ronaldo’s quality. But will he get enough possession of the ball to hurt Spain?

ALVARO ARBELOA for me is the weakest link in the Spanish defence. With David Silva not inclined to running back to help on that wing, the right-back is often times always on his own and Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani could get something off him if they concentrate on his flank.

Paulo Bento should field the same side that started against the Czechs with only Helder Postiga expected to miss out due to the injury sustained in the quarter-final clash. Hugo Almeida should come in so expect some long balls to the tall striker while he holds them up to bring Ronaldo and Nani into play.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS

Spain – (4-3-3): Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta

Portugal – (4-3-3): Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, João Moutinho, Nani, Hugo Almeida, Cristiano Ronaldo

FINAL ANALYSIS

I think Portugal will be in a great position if they can score first in this tie. Scoring first will definitely unsettle Spain but at the same time, it’s no mean feat considering the fact that the defending champions have not conceded a goal in the knockout rounds of a major tournament since they came through the group stage of Euro 2008 – a run of eight games.

Spain must be wary of Ronaldo’s threat. I think he will be looking forward to going up against his club team-mates and will definitely savour beating them to the European Championship trophy.

Portugal will have to be super-patient in this match. It’s no secret they won’t get the ball for long periods but they must keep their shape and not lose concentration. Spain will pass the ball around to disrupt the shape of their opponent and bring them out of their comfort zone but if Portugal can stay firm, they will only pass among themselves without any result. The false nine system itself doesn’t allow for many shots on targets so if Portugal can defend solid and capitalize on one or two rare breaks, the Spaniards could be in for a shock.

PREDICTION: The Spanish team have more quality in their ranks than Portugal, especially in midfield where I think the match will be won. I seldom bet against the Spaniards and I won’t be going against them in this one.

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12 thoughts on “Euro 2012 Semi-final Preview: Portugal vs Spain

  1. Good read!! Expect Spain to have a slim victory.

  2. Mouth-watering is not a good enough adjective to begin to describe this encounter. I have personally criticized the F9 tactic of Del Bosque, but hey, what do l know. This is an European + World Cup winner! Most importantly, Spain has conceded the least number of goals in this tournament so far even when pundits say the defense is suspect. This is where Casillas comes in; a world class keeper who single handedly can hand a game to his team. Ronaldo would have to beat him IF Portugal has any chance of notching this one up. It must be said too that the Portuguese defense isn’t that good and Iniesta is sure to run rings round them.
    For the Portuguese, its evident their game plan is built around Ronaldo and that’s a dangerous thing to do against a free flowing Spanish side. We all know how petulant CR7 becomes when things don’t go his way. Nani on the other hand goes AWOL on occasions you expect him to deliver. The Portuguese are a good side no doubt and would give us a good game against the Spanish BUT…………
    ………..I expect SPAIN to turn all the GAINS of the Portuguese in this tournament to PAIN!!!

  3. Is a clash of Neighbours,knowing themselves inside out,Portugal might look back at the 4-0 spanking they handed to the la roja in the friendly game but come to think of it,this is a different ball game entirely. My mind tells me If portugal can borrow a leaf from the chelsea’s defense against barca and also be clinical in front of goals,they might stand a chance. But as you have said you cant just bet against spain t this stage,they are bound to deliever and I think they will except something drastic happens.
    My heart wants portugal but realistically my brain says Spain.
    Great work mate!
    You are a born champion!

  4. If there’s one team that can stop Spain, it’s Portugal. They’re a team perfectly set up to trouble the Spaniards – aggressive, physical, good in the air, good on the break. I think it will be a really tight game. Spain have to bring their A-game to win this one.

    This is Spain’s final. If they win this, they’d definitely win this Euro.

  5. Portugal will look back at the 4 – 0 drubbing of Spain (albeit in a friendly game) for inspiration. I would read more into that result as there’s no such thing as a friendly game between the Iberian rivals. It’s also worthy of note that Del Bosque’s team suffered a 4 – 1 defeat to Argentina after the Portugal thrashing in which Fabregas labelled a day to forget.

    Spain haven’t lost in this tournament (EURO2012) but their victories haven’t come easy either as opposing teams have come to terms with the fact that the Spaniards will boss the game but not to devastating effect as regards the scoreline which in my opinion is a spot of bother for Spanish fans.

    Having stated these, Spain have got the respect their style of play deserves and results in this tournament have shown. Their only dropped point was against Italy in the 1st game of the group stages where it was expected that nerves would kick in although the Italians are no push overs. With impressive wins over Ireland, Holland and France, Spain will be favourites to beat Portugal who’ve grown from strength to strength with a resurgent Cristiano Ronaldo – the most potent European footballer today. How Arbeloa, his Real Madrid team mate will cope will be key.

    Portugal have the most rigidly dynamic defense line in the tournament as Bruno Alves and Pepe cover the center and full back positions effectively allowing Parreira and Coentrao the freedom and confidence to go forward, assisting the forwards. In Raul Meireles, Portugal have an astute defensive midfielder with an eye for the killer pass and the odd shot on target who’s in the mould of the coach, Paulo Bento. Moutinho, hailed as one of the best creative midfielders of his generation will not be intimidated by Xavi, Alonso or Busquets as they’d have Nani and Ronaldo to worry about.

    A mouth-watering prospect this is. Portugal will beat Spain only if they are lucky to convert the chances they get which will be few and far between and hope that Spain – once again depend on the low scoring Xabi Alonso to bail them out or the still mis-firing Fernando Torres. In football, luck plays a big part and I think Portugal look more likely to be luckier than Spain would be.

    Portugal for me.

  6. This Match Would Definitely Be Hotter Than Fire…And Will Be Won My Either A Moment Of Genius or Extreme Stupidity….Both Teams Need To Make Sure No One Makes Any Silly Mistakes or That They Recover Immediately When/If They Do…
    I Honestly Can’t Guess Who’ll Prevail, I Guess We’ll See :D

  7. I can’t predict this one, I think it will be close. Portugal have the advantage on the flanks. And since Italy had De Rossi in defense when they played Spain, this Portugal center midfield would be the best central midfield Spain has faced so far. Can they be able to put pressure on Spain’s midfield?

  8. Portugal av got wat it takes to defeat Spain… Wat wuld be key 4 dem will be dier ability to play as a team. If d Portuguese can stay disciplined @ d back nd convert d few chances dey wuld av,dey wuld scale thru buh if not, Spain wont av any problem winning dis..

  9. If Spain go with that false 9 formation, I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if Portugal won. That formation can frustrate the sanity of opposing players, not having to feel the ball often!

    Hence, I think it’s the combination of Moutinho, Veloso & Meireles that’s key for Portugal in this match. Pirlo was key in the 1-1 draw Italy got against Spain & the Italians know they could’ve won that game. If Portugal’s trio can get CR7 in good positions, they’ll get same result, at least.

  10. Its gon be a tuff match

  11. This match is really gonna be cagey. Battle of d midfield I must say. Spain’s creativity might just be d edge but dats not to say d portuguese’s pace wld not be a factor. I’ll go for a portugal victory. 1-0

  12. Great info. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

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