Tactics, passing and Cristiano Ronaldo. There’s not a whole lot of love between Spain and Portugal in terms of their football, and it will probably be seen in an edgy Euro 2012 Semi Final, which will be about endless Spanish possession and Portugal trying to counter that.
There’s some weird sense of confidence in the Portuguese camp, not just because they’ve won their last three matches in the tournament and Cristiano Ronaldo has finally found his form for the national team. Going back to the euphoric days of the post-2010 World Cup, Spain came to Lisbon and were severely hammered by the host side 4-0. Some say that the win still lingers with some Spanish players as they take on Portugal in Donetsk.
For Spain, it’s starting to get boring with all these questions about Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres, 4-6-0 and false nine’s. This is how Spain play, which many people don’t like, but it gets results. Gets titles. It doesn’t inspire fantasy novels about beautiful plays and combinations. It’s just effective. Spain haven’t lost in 18 competitive matches, since the World Cup opener against Switzerland.
Whether it’s going to be Torres or Fabregas in the opening lineup, the key men in the midfield will be Andres Iniesta, Spain’s best player in the tournament so far, and David Silva. Their motion and creative passing is what creates the goals for Spain, adding the unpredictability factor everyone wants to see more of. Xavi and Xabi Alonso can pass around all day long, but they need that creative edge in front to make things happen, especially against a strong defense like Portugal’s.
Like Spain, Portugal’s ‘strong’ defense is hinging on the fact that their midfielder stop the waves before they storm the beach. Pepe and Bruno Alves are two very strong and physical centre backs, but not without their flaws and faults. Portugal will have to find the weak spot in the Spanish passing game, probably Sergio Busquets on a normal day, and pick it apart, in order to avoid a long waiting match of seeing Spain pass around for 5 minutes and lose their concentration.
One last line about Cristiano Ronaldo? How can’t we? Spain say they’ll swarm him, Portugal say he knows how to handle the pressure and the Spanish players. All eyes, as usual, will be targeted on him and every reaction he has to a good or frustrating match, which will once again ‘determine’ if he’s the best in the world, if he plays well in big matches and so on and so on.
Prediction – Portugal are confident and have an in-form Cristiano Ronaldo, but Spain are just too good at the moment, despite not having the excitement level people expect of them. Spain win by a goal, probably 1-0.