Spain vs. Portugal – UEFA Euro 2012 Semifinal Match Preview
The Iberian derby will be the first semifinal of the European Championship. Portugal and Spain will fight for a coveted spot in the tournament’s final. The Portuguese are looking for their second appearance, the first hosting their devastating 2004 loss against Greece. The Spanish look for their second consecutive final appearance.
Gerard Pique (left) and Andres Iniesta (right) prepare for their semifinal clash against Portugal.
The clear favorite of this match is Spain, who is the defending champion and hopes to become the first nation to win back-to-back European Championships. Portugal coach Paulo Bento knows they will have to rely on patience in order to break down the Spanish midfield.
Battling with a side that overwhelms their opponent with possession, Portugal will have to count on the quickness of their counterattack. An important duo will be attack-minded fullbacks Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrão, who can help create chances for Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo if a space opens up through the flanks.
Fabio Coentrão will be key in both defense and attack for Portugal.
Bento will finally have to edit his so-far unchanged lineup after striker Helder Postiga suffered from a thigh injury in the quarterfinal game against the Czechs. Hugo Almeida will be the likely starter, as the young Nelson Oliveira simply lacks the international experience for such a high-profile game.
Pepe (left) and Ronaldo (right) alongside Hugo Alemeida (center), who will replace striker Helder Postiga.
Despite harsh critiques, Vicente Del Bosque’s false nine approach starring Cesc Fábregas has given them good results. This lineup is likely to make a comeback for their clash against La Seleção, though Fernando Torres is always an option. As the tournament nears its close, the inclusion of Fernando Llorente seems less and less probable even though he scored three goals for La Roja during qualifying.
Will Fernando Torres make an appearance on the Spanish starting eleven?
Though their gameplay tactics are vastly different, defense will be key for both sides during this match. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique will have their hands full with Portuguese wingers Nani and Ronaldo, while Miguel Veloso will have to recover many balls from Spanish midfield giants Xavi and Iniesta.
La Roja’s famous tiki-taka has received much criticism for being boring, but no one can deny its effectiveness. This will be Spain’s toughest match of the tournament, however, as the players have yet to be tested to their true limit.
Sergio Ramos will have to help stop his Real Madrid teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yes, Spain eliminated their Iberian rivals in the 2010 World Cup, but Portugal has grown since then while the Spanish haven’t. On paper, Spain should win this match; but if Ronaldo continues in the splendid form seen against Netherlands and Czech Republic, an upset may just occur for the defending champions.