Portugal v Spain - Euro 2012 Semi-final Match Preview
This evening Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side take on defending Champions Spain. The winner of this match will be awarded the first spot, in Kiev, for Sunday’s final.
Spain reached this stage of the competition with a convincing 2-0 win against France in the quarter final stages. Xabi Alonso scored both goals for Vincent del Bosque’s team as he marked his 100th cap for his country.
Portugal progressed to the semi-finals following a 1-0 victory versus the Czech Republic, courtesy of an impressive Ronaldo header.
Both teams enter the last-four clash on the back of three consecutive wins at the tournament, with Sunday’s final clearly in sight.
Paulo Bento faces one injury that will force him to disrupt his usual eleven that he has selected to start each of Portugal’s 4 games so far at Euro 2012. That absentee is Helder Postiga, who miss out with a hamstring injury sustained against the Czech Republic in the last round.
His likely replacement is Hugo Almeida, who made his first appearance of the tournament when Postiga was stretchered off in the last round.
Previously to that, Nelson Oliveira had come on for Postiga in each of the three group games, though he is considered more of an impact sub and so is unlikely to play from the off. Otherwise, Portugal are again likely to be unchanged.
Spain have no injury worries or suspensions to worry about, so Vicente del Bosque could field the same XI again, with Cesc Fabregas to start in the ‘false 9’ position. However, for such an important fixture I’d expect him to start with a natural striker up front, adding an extra threat in attack. This calls for Fernando Torres or, the currently unused, Fernando Llorente.
Xabi Alonso will continue to have the freedom to roam the pitch and get forwards once again, with Xavi and Busquets playing more defensively. His 2 goals against the French saw Spain through to the semi-finals, and he will look to add to Spain’s goal threat here.
Spain continued their march towards yet another title at a major tournament with a thoroughly convincing 2-0 win over France, a game which they never even looked like losing. Once again, they dominated possession, and made it count against a lacklustre French defence.
Portugal’s defensive record could prove worrying ahead of this match. Paulo Bento’s side has conceded plenty of goals (4 in 4 matches at Euro 2012) and Spain should therefore be confident of finding the net on at least one occasion.
Despite this, I have a sneaky feeling Portugal could steal a win. They will allow the Spaniards to take control of the ball, and hit them on the counter attack, as they did so effectively against the Netherlands, with star man Cristiano Ronaldo the one to stop. Real Madrid teammate Alvaro Arbeloa will come face to face with Ronaldo and will be charged with stopping him. Del Bosque may be forced to employ Sergio Busquets to double up on him with Arbeloa, which could create spaces in other parts of the pitch for the likes of Nani to exploit.
However, while Portugal have one of the world’s best players in Ronaldo, there is only so much he can do, and Spain are simply a class above in just about every other position on the pitch. They will pass the ball about, hoping to eventually wear Portugal down.
I would love to see the underdog win this one. But unfortunately for Portugal, I think Spain will simply prove too strong.