Geographical neighbors, Portugal and Spain are preparing to do battle in the first semi-final of Euro 2012. Both teams qualified to the semis by scoring late game clinching goals, but will the drama carry over to this semi final showdown, or will one team grab the game by the scruff of the neck from the get go? We will take a look holistically as to which team has the best chance of progressing to the Final, and whether there could be a surprise in store for what has already been a roller coaster of a ride for us Euro 2012 fans.
Euro 2012 has been a tournament of new ideas and tactics, and none has been as bold and daring as Spain’s lack of a recognized striker, when they play a 4-6-0. They instead flood the midfield with a combination of attacking and holding midfielders, and look to get forward as a collective group. With their tiki-taka style of short precise passes, they dominate possession statistics. But does this possession actually lead to goals? It really depends on their opponents, to be honest. Spain’s game of possession has been their bread and butter since the last European Championships in 2008, and as a result many countries are adapting their style of play and becoming smarter in trying to close down the space that Spain needs to play tiki taka. That is not to say that Spain can’t get forward and create chances on their own, they’ve found goals from many different players in the midfield and even striker Fernando Torres has chipped in 2 goals of his own, albeit against a weak Ireland squad, in what has been a 18 plus months of goal scoring failure overall. The main question for Spain tactically is 4-3-2-1 or 4-6-0, or does Spain manager Vincente Del Bosque have something completely different up his sleeve?
On the other hand you have Portugal, who tactically have looked very strong despite a slow start in the group stages. Without question, Portugal’s focal point is their attacking power and the play of their captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo for the past couple of games has looked hungry and dangerous in the attacking third and he will be looking to capitalize on his rich vein of form. Attack, attack, attack will be on Portugal’s mind if and when they are able to break Spain’s game of possession. With Nani and Ronaldo occupying the wings Spain will be quite busy, and that is where attacking midfielder Joao Moutinho will have more time and space to operate, and with his cutting edge vision and array of passing skills can create a lot of havoc for the Spanish back line. In order to take the defensive pressure off their weaker backline, the wingbacks will have to push up into attack and consistently cross into dangerous areas of the box so the Spanish defense can’t settle and get into their usual groove.
All things considered, this match will be an out and out attacking match. The pace of Portugal versus the possession game of Spain, makes predicting a result for this match a very hard task to complete. I am going to say that this game will be a 1-1 draw after regulation time and flashes of half chances in extra time. All this culminating in a penalty kick shoot out that will see Spain win 4-3 and most importantly a spot in the final of Euro 2012.