Euro 2012 Semifinals: Iberian Rivals Collide For Spot In Final: Spain vs Portugal

2012 UEFA European Soccer Championship Semifinals
Spain vs Portugal
Donbass Stadium – Donetsk, Ukraine
Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 2:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Point Line: Spain -1/2 -117 / Portugal +1/2 -103
Total: under 2 -115 / over 2 -105
Three Way Line: Spain -117 / Portugal +350 / Draw +230
Odds to Advance to the Final: Spain -225 / Portugal +185
Point Spread, Total, and Three Way include regulation and stoppage time only. Advance includes extra time and/ or shootout as well.

Spain takes on neighbor and rival Portugal in the semifinals of Euro 2012 Wednesday in Ukraine.

other much criticized but very talented athlete tries to win a title in his sport. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the most talented soccer player in the world, but has never led his nation to a major title. Portugal will take on rival and neighbor Spain in the semifinals of Euro 2012 for the right to play either Germany or Italy in Sunday’s Championship game.

Portugal, managed by Paulo Bento, has never won the World Cup or the Euro Cup. They were upset by Greece in the 2004 Euro Cup final despite the fact Portugal hosted the tournament. Portugal got to the semifinals of Euro 2012 despite being placed in the so called group of death, with Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. All were in the top ten in pre-tournament FIFA rankings. Portugal lost to Germany 1-0 in the Group B opener, but beat Denmark 3-2 and the Netherlands 2-1 to finish second in the group behind the undefeated Germans.

Portugal advanced to the knockout stage and was matched against Group A winner the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. Portugal was clearly the better side, but couldn’t score. The game appeared headed to extra time until Ronaldo scored with 11 minutes left on a header to give Portugal the 1-0 win. Portugal outshout the Czechs 20-2, and could have won by 3 or 4 goals but they missed some good scoring chances.

Spain, coached by Vicente Del Bosque, is the defending Euro and World Cup Champion. No country has ever won three straight major tournaments, as Spain is trying to do. Spain was placed into group C with Italy, Ireland, and Croatia. Spain won the group with 7 points. Spain played to a 1-1 draw against Italy to open group play and then crushed Ireland 4-0. Spain beat Croatia 1-0 in the last game to secure the group title. Since Spain lost to Switzerland in group play at the 2010 World Cup, the Spanish haven’t suffered a loss in 18 competitive games. They have lost 4 friendlies in the last 14.

Spain was matched up against Group D runner up France in the quarterfinals. Although most of the game was played in the midfield, there was no question Spain was the better team. Xabi Alonso scored 2 goals for Spain, including one on a penalty kick in stoppage time at the end of the second half. Spain won 2-0 against a French side that didn’t appear interested in attacking. Spain outshot France 9-4 in the rout. Spain hasn’t allowed a goal in 8 straight knockout round games dating back to Euro 2008.

This is the 35th meeting between Portugal and Spain. The Spanish lead the series 15-12-7. This will be only the 8th meeting between the nations in competitive games, as most have been in friendlies. Spain beat Portugal in the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup 1-0. This is the third meeting between the teams in the Euros, as they played in 2004 and 1984 in the group stage.

Portugal keeper Rui Patricio has given up 4 goals in 4 games in Euro 2012. Three of the goals were headed in, so that could be a concern. Portugal kept a clean sheet against the Czechs for the first time in the tournament.

Portugal will employ a 4-3-3 attack like they usually do. The offense is led by the sublime Ronaldo of course. After a slow start to the tournament, Ronaldo has been brilliant against the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, with three goals in those two games on 18 shots. Portugal is very aggressive on offense as they have attempted 70 shots, with 33 on target during Euro 2012. Portugal has also hit the posts 6 times. Talented striker Helder Postiga will miss the Spain game with a hamstring injury, and will be replaced by Hugo Almeida. Ohter key players for Portugal include Nani, Pepe, Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho.

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas has only allowed 1 goal in four games. He hasn’t faced a lot of chances though, as Spain usually dominates possession.

Spain employs a 4-5-1 attack that many criticize for being boring because the midfielders dominate possession. You can’t argue with the results though, as Spain is the best team in the world right now according to many experts. Fernando Torres looked great against Ireland but missed some chances against Italy. He disappeared against Croatia. There is some question whether Del Bosque will keep Torres as the striker or move midfielder Cesc Fabregas to that spot. Dynamic playmaker Xavi will look to create the offense. Although the most important player might be fullback Alvaro Arbeloa , who is tasked with slowing down Ronaldo, easier said than done.

Ronaldo has been criticized as being selfish, and sometimes caring more about showing off by making a flashy play rather than making the extra pass to a teammate. Spain has said they won’t change the game plan for Ronaldo, and they shouldn’t. Spain is more talented and deeper, and can frustrate Ronaldo. I like Spain to win a close game, 2-1. It might even go to penalties.

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