We nearly made it through the tournament without a 0-0 match, with a penalty shootout. But Italy took care of England and are now on their way to meet the semi-favorites Germany in a clash that always brings back memories of distant World Cups while Portugal and Spain clash in the Iberian derby, which has a Real Madrid – Barcelona feel to it, no matter how you look at it.
Portugal – Spain
You can’t avoid feeling the Barcelona – Real Madrid connection. Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe evoke that feeling in you most of all. Spain always feels like Messi is missing from this team somehow. Too many parallels.
And the Semi Final between these two old rivals will probably be going along the same lines. Spain, like in every match, will enjoy most of the possession, while Cristiano Ronaldo will try and strike back through counter attacks. Playing three in the middle of the park, like always, with Meireles, Moutinho and Veloso might only be there to disrupt the Spanish passing game, not cancel it completely.
France had a few moments when it showed that a quick attack with accurate passing game can embarrass the Spanish defense. Portugal have a quicker front, with Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo at least, while again we’ll recommend for Bento to play without Helder Postiga. Hugo Almeida isn’t fast, but is easier to play off of. Nelson Oliveira or Silvestre Varela could be good options as well.
Game Info – Portugal won the last meeting 4-0 in a friendly after the world cup, but Spain won the last competitive match, in the 2010 World Cup, 1-0. The game will be played on Wednesday, June 27, on 20:45 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Prediction – Like every match with Spain, it’ll be about frustrating their opponents into losing the will and patience to play sensible football and becoming desperate. Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo, but Spain simply have a team that seems to be one level above the competition.
Germany – Italy
No one expected Germany’s win over Greece to be easy, and there were the moments of fright during a few moments in the second half, after the Greeks equalizer. But Germany have a lot of variety and depth in their squad, soon taking over the match. Greece tried to park the bus for a second time, but it just wouldn’t work against Germany’s speed and mix up of attacking through the wings.
Italy faced quite a challenge with an England team that quit 60 minutes into the match, sending everyone back and just fighting to carry the match into a penalty shootout. It’s going to be interesting if Prandelli tries the 4-3-2-1 tactic that’s actually very good at retaining possession and created a lot of chances for his team, or go back to a 5-3-2 and try and absorb the German pressure. Getting your mind into the underdog set does strange things to teams, forgetting how well they can play attacking football.
Low? He’s got so much to pick from. One important contribution was seeing Lahm making a break through the middle. There are few, if any, full backs in the world better than Lahm, who sometimes limits himself when it comes to offense, but rarely disappoints when he does try something. Conventional never works against a stout Italian defense, but having someone like Lahm certainly helps change blueprints on the pitch.
Game Info – Actually met in a friendly match four months ago, drawing 1-1. Obviously, the most memorable of recent matches was the 2006 World Cup Semi Final, Del Piero’s redemption and a sweet 2-0 win for the Italians in extra time. The match will be played June 28, Thursday, on 20:45, at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Prediction – Prandelli will probably go for what worked for him in the group stage against Germany, hoping he can find holes through their defense with long balls. It won’t be enough against a German team that