After defeating Czech Republic and France respectively, Portugal and Spain are set for a wild semi-final showdown at the Euro 2012.
Both teams were industrious and disciplined in their respective quarterfinal encounters and truly deserve to be in this position.
Let’s have a look at what fans should see during the highly anticipated match and what Portugal and Spain would do to stake a claim in the final of Europe’s biggest tournament.
Even after enjoying an impressive and comfortable game against Les Blues, Vincet Del Bosque’s newborn obsession with the false nine role failed to yield the needed results. Cesc Fabregas might not have been a poor performer, but his attacking contribution could have clearly been better, and it doesn’t look like that he will be on the team sheet against Portugal.
Portugal play with a flat back four with three strict midfielders ahead of them. Hence, it would be typical of them to overload the midfield and shut down Spain’s ‘false nine’ formation, just like Chelsea did with Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final over two months ago.
Therefore, Spain would ideally need a poacher in front of the goal, someone capable of making troubling runs, stretching Paulo Bento’s defense and finishing the chances created by their star-studded midfield. In simple words, it is quite likely that Fernando Torres would start instead of Cesc Fabregas. El Nino might be blowing hot-and-cold, but he has the ability to cause havoc in opposition’s defense and keep them on their toes with his quick pace and runs. This would prevent Portugal from jamming the midfield and consequently allow the Spaniards to have more ideas and better movement in front of goal.
The midfield is as flawless as ever and will surely dominate the game. Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta and David Silva are all untouchable to say the least and the midfield battle will be surely won by the Spaniards.
Defense is where the world champions could face severe and daunting problems though.
Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique still do not quite look like a stable central defense duo and their lack of understanding and communication could prove fatal for La Roja.
Moreover, Spain’s two full backs, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba, will be up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Nani, respectively. The Spanish duo might get help from Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso to counter the Portugal’s wingers, but Portugal’s best two forward-minded players will still provide an immense threat to Iker Casillas’ goal.
Portugal have been one of the most impressive teams in the Euros so far and look more than just underdogs in this semifinal game.
Their back four, consisting of Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves and Fabio Coentrao, looks fairly consistent and capable enough to stop Spanish’s attack.
Their midfield, too, is as solid as their defense and can, to same extent, handle the pressure of the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta and David Silva.
However, don’t expect any midfield domination. Portugal might attack but they don’t have any chance of dominating the game.
Their best chances of scoring, as mentioned earlier, would come through counter-attacks via Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Nani. The two will have to use their lightening pace to quickly break up Spain’s defense and take advantage of the ‘poor’ central defense pairing of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique.
In addition, with Helder Postiga injured, Hugo Almeida will be the likely starter, and the 28-year-old would only add more prowess and pace to Portugal’s attack.
In all fairness, the Portuguese go into this game with a huge opportunity to knock Spain out of the competition and move one step closer to winning a major trophy for the first time in their history.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta
Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Luis Nani, Hugo Almeida, Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal: Joao Moutinho
Yes, it’s not Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid start might be arguably the best player on the pitch for Portugal, but his side’s chances of going through to the final heavily rest on Joao Moutinho.
The 25-year-old has been in monumental form so far, contributing heavily to both the defense and the attack of Paulo Bento’s side.
Hence, Moutinho will have the pivotal responsibility of thoroughly keeping the midfield organized breaking down and terminating Spain’s possession play.
Moreover, his attacking contributions, too, will be vital, as the Porto man will regularly need to provide Nani and Ronaldo with key passes and ball that could well turn into ‘key’ goals. If Spain overrun Moutinho, then Portugal’s attacking options could consequently hit a massive blow.
Spain: Xabi Alonso
Xabi Alonso will have to replicate his France performance against Portugal, if Spain are to have any chance of reaching a second successive Euro final.
The 30-year-old had a lively evening as he scored two goals and in-fact single handedly winning the game for La Roja.
Against Portugal, the former Liverpool man, along with Sergio Busquets, would have the huge task of helping the fullbacks stop Ronaldo and Nani create their flair and magic on the pitch and like Moutinho, regularly go up front and provide the Spaniards with attacking depth.
Mr. Reliable would surely have to live up to his expectation and potential on Wednesday night.
Prediction: Portugal 0-1 Spain
Coming to the prediction, I feel that Spain will just edge out Portugal to book a place in the final of the Euros.
Yes, Portugal’s wingers will likely torment Spain down the flanks, and yes, Spain might have to defend much harder than they are usually accustomed to, but I feel that their midfield would eventually win them the game.
However, one can still never count out Ronaldo and co., and it will surely be a nail-biting encounter, showcasing two of the most talented teams on the planet.