Unfinished Business Between Portugal and Spain
Semi-final: Portugal vs. Spain
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
20:45CET (21:45 local time)
Donbass Arena, Donetsk
Both teams last met in a competitive fixture at the 2010 World Cup, Spain knocking the Portuguese out with a 1-0 win. Portugal will be hoping to avenge that loss though the two teams met in a friendly in Lisbon in November 2010, the Portuguese trouncing La Roja by 4-0. Spain have met Portugal 34 times, winning 16 and losing just six. Interestingly, 14 of Spain’s 16 wins took place before 1960. A Selecção and La Furia Roja have met three times in major tournaments, winning one apiece.
Spain have a wonderful record under Vicente Del Bosque having won 31 out of 34 competitive games under the former Spanish footballer. The Spaniards have kept a clean sheet in each of their last eight knockout games in major finals, employing the “attack is the best form of defence” strategy. Spain have conceded just one goal so far at Euro 2012. With the attacking trio of Iniesta, Silva and Xavi in their arsenal, the Spaniards are a formidable team. Their tiki-taka style has seen them notch a total of 2623 passes so far, doubling Portugal’s tally of 1159. Five of Spain’s eight goals have come in the last 30 minutes of play.
In Portugal’s fourth semi-final appearance at the European Championship finals, they will be looking to harness the brilliance of star player Cristiano Ronaldo in their quest for a final berth. They have managed to reach the final once, on home soil in 2004 losing to Greece. The Portuguese have hit the woodwork six times in this year’s tourney and four of the six shots were via Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots. Since condemning Spain to their heaviest defeat in 47 years in their 4-0 victory, not much has changed in both teams since. Portugal had nine players that started in their win over Czech in that game. Spain on the other hand are expected to start with eight of the players that faced Portugal in that 4-0 defeat.
The Spanish will take fortress in frustrating the Portuguese with their passing style, breaking the defence open in the process. Portugal will most likely defend in large numbers, waiting for the perfect opportunity to hit on the break. Ronaldo will be vital to any chances of Portugal progressing and chances are that if he doesn’t show up, it’s goodbye Portugal. Ronaldo though will be largely motivated for this in the battle for supremacy with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the FIFA Ballon d’Or at stake.
La Roja have started Fabregas as a ‘false 9’ twice in a 4-3-3 setup and it remains to be seen whether Del Bosque will go with that approach again. He’s likely to begin with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Torres as the lone striker with little or no changes to the starting lineup.
Spain (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Alonso; Silva, Xavi, Iniesta; Torres.
For the first time in the tournament, Paulo Bento will be forced to change his starting line-up due to Postiga’s injury. Postiga suffered a thigh injury in their 1-0 win over the Czech Republic. Besiktas’ Hugo Almeida is set to deputise in his place. Putting that aside, the starting lineup is expected to remain intact in a 4-3-3 formation.
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles; Nani, Almeida, Ronaldo.
Portugal’s efficiency in their flank play with Nani and Ronaldo will be influential. Expect Nani and Ronaldo to run riot down the flanks, trying to take advantage of a possible Spain high defensive line. Spain will most likely dominate possession, working their way to unravelling the Portuguese defence. While Spain will be looking to become the first team to win three consecutive major international tournaments, Portugal are aspiring to reach their first major final since their heartrending loss to Greece at the Euro 2004 finals. It promises to be an interesting encounter.
“We have ambition and courage. We know what we have to do. We have to put pressure on our opponents and our aim is not to defend all the time. We won’t do that against the world and European champions. I think they know we can cause them problems.” – Portugal manager, Paulo Bento
“We have to take notice of Ronaldo. He’s an excellent player and it’s logical that there’s so much talk about him.” – Spain manager, Del Bosque’s on Portugal’s star player.