Just three games to go at Euro 2012, with Portugal meeting Spain in Donetsk on Wednesday, followed by Germany versus Italy in Warsaw on Thursday for the right to play in Sunday’s final. It should prove to be another fascinating round of matches in an excellent tournament to date, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and co aiming to pull off a shock against World and European champions Spain in the Iberian derby on Wednesday.
Much will depend on how Portugal approach the match, having displayed such attacking verve in matches against Denmark, Holland and Czech Republic, after opening the tournament so negatively against Germany. Indeed, Spain remain favourites despite the frequent accusations of the “boring” football served up in the tournament to date.
As ever, Portugal’s hopes lie with Ronaldo, who now has six European Championship goals in total. Having hit the woodwork four times already, the former Manchester United man could have scored a lot more. Only Alan Shearer with seven, and Michel Platini who has nine, have scored more in the tournament’s history.
The omens may not lie with Portugal though – the Spanish have beaten their neighbours just twice in the past 54 years, but the head-to-head record has Spain with 16 wins to Portugal’s six. The Portuguese have lost four of five previous semi-finals at major tournaments too – the only victory coming against Holland at home in 2004.
Spain, meanwhile, has gone 10 Euro finals matches without defeat since losing to Portugal in the 2004 tournament. Del Bosque’s side has also kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at tournaments. Iker Casillas is unbeaten in more than 13 hours of knock-out football, since the great Zinedine Zidane scored a last-minute goal for France at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Both teams report a reasonably clean bill-of-health for the tie. Portugal striker Helder Postiga will miss the match with a thigh injury, with coach Paulo Bento likely to deploy Hugo Almeida in his stead. Postiga aside, Portugal should start with an unchanged line-up.
Meanwhile, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has no new injury concerns after the quarter-final stroll against France, although the former Real Madrid manager must decide whether to recall striker Fernand Torres or persist with Cesc Fabregas as a ‘false 9′.
Join United Rant for live comment, analysis and chat during the first Euro 2012 semi-final. Early thoughts throughout the afternoon, with preamble, team news and pre-match comments from around 7pm.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:56
GoodBye From Moi……
Well thanks Ed for another interesting tactical education!! Surely Roy would change his opinion on STATs if he just joined us….. Anyone wanting to discuss this evening or any of my previous comments then join me on twitter; @JonyB0007
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:42
Spain through to another Final…..
Spain were pushed all the way as they were matched by a side who contained individuals equally adept on the ball…..
Possibly the game was finally won in midfield, where Portugal’s Stand-out midfielder Moutinho looked sadly ‘Gone’ come his penalty….
Their final Possession stats was no different to any other game … Leading Portugal 64.4% to 35.6% and almost doubling Portugals passing….
But… Only managing 14 shots, with 4 on target this game was very much for the taking for Portugal, and Spain will be very thankful of the extra recovery time until the final….
Bento’s tactics will offer much encouragement to Lowe. The German midfield axis of Sweinsteiger-Kheidra-Ozil Will certainly offer a stern test if they can retain enough possession, as would Gomez represent a much stronger challenge to the Spanish Centrebacks, but firstly and more importantly the German’s must get past the Azzurri……..
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:30
Penalty Shoot Out Won by…….. Spain
Spain win the shoot out 4-2….
Nani’s was decisive, Ramos’ delightfully cocky, Alves suffers the same fate as Ashley Young (but will he receive the same Racism??),
Cue Ronaldo’s tears…….
Ed - Wednesday 22:29
And Spain win it
Alonso – saved by Patricio 0-0
Moutinho – saved by Casillas 0-0
Iniesta – scores 1-0
Pepe – scores 1-1
Pique – scores 2-1
Nani – scores 2-2
Ramos – scores 3-2
Alves – misses, against the bar 3-2
Fabregas – scores 4-2
There’ll be tears once again in the Ronaldo household tonight. Portugal didn’t get to penalty number five so we’ll never know if Ronaldo was due to take one or not.
Well, that’s good night from me. A tense game in which neither side genuine deserved to win. Portugal ran Spain closer than any team, including Italy, have in recent games. Fantastic effort from Ronaldo’s men, come up just short.
There’s a hug between Ramos and Pepe – so many club connections in this game.
In the end Spain reach a third international final in a row. Can they retain their championship? We’ll find out on Sunday when Del Bosque’s men meet Italy or Germany.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:18
Choices made and the Huddles broken…..
But who will have the broken Dreams…….?
Ed - Wednesday 22:18
Penalties is it
So who’ll be the hero and the villain in five minute’s time? It was a tense, at times fragmented match in which Portugal defended superbly, and Spain disappointed with a lacklustre attacking display. Were the Spanish tired? Certainly they moved the ball much more slowly than has been the case at previous tournaments.
Portugal enter a mass huddle before the shoot-out. This could be a seminal moment in Portuguese football history. Or, the Spanish regime will go on once more.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:14
The second Nil-Nil in these games see us reach the Second Penalty Lottery…..
Will Nani Take a Penalty and keep Manchester United Interest in this competition???
I’d go Spain…….
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:11
Yet again Portugal steal possession with their pressing, but yet again they fail to make that possession count, this time the newly added Verala…
Will they live to regret this fact come penalties…..?
Ed - Wednesday 22:11
Into the last five
Spain well on top now so late in the game, but is it too little, too late? Portugal on the back foot and seeking penalties. Spain finally moving the ball quickly. It has been slow-motion tiki-taka at times this evening, and the Spanish may well pay a heavy price for it.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:06
16 Raul Meireles for 18.Silvestre Varela
Ed - Wednesday 22:06
Spain close again
Navas and Arbeloa combine to create yet another chance. Portugal meanwhile bring on yet another forward. They’re not settling for penalties just yet.
Ed - Wednesday 22:03
So who will take one if we don’t get a goal in the next 15. Ronaldo has a mixed record in shot outs but he’ll surely be first on Portugal’s list should it come to it.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 22:01
First period of extra time
Iniesta much more influential and with Pedro and Navas staying wider well supported by their overlapping fullbacks.
We see Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves and Pepe the main influences with Portugal.
Nani surprisingly seen more defensively and the commentator remains sadly incorrect as he decries Coentrao as not influential.
Ed - Wednesday 21:55
two great chances for Spain
Navas and then Iniesta both go close for Spain. Well, Iniesta went close, Navas almost hit the corner flag with his ‘shot’ from the corner of the area. Spain piling on the pressure now as we near the end of the first half of extra time.
Ed - Wednesday 21:51
Spain’s change in tactics
Now playing with two out-and-out flying wingers in Pedro and Navas. That should caution Portugal against over-committing in attack lest they be caught on the break – not that Ronaldo’s side is doing that! Still, there’s a more obvious goal threat in the Spanish side, even if it’s at the cost of ball retention.
Ed - Wednesday 21:48
Spain on the offensive
Already showing a little more ambition, with players piling forward on two occasions in extra time already. Surely the Spanish – World and European champions – don’t want to let this go to the lottery of penalty kicks. That said, Portugal haven’t tired at all. Still pressing strongly in defence, and breaking when possible. Still anybody’s game, this.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:48
Referee has been very Biased and poor decision making…
Moutinho penalised for a great tackle as Iniesta takes to his and players of the El Classico’s favourite pass-time of perpetrating the artistic dive……
Adds credence to m’ Le Conspiration Ed!!!!
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:44
The Spanish have kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at major tournaments.
With Goalkeeper Iker Casillas unbeaten in 780 minutes (13 hours) up until this semi-final……. since Zinedine Zidane’s 90th-minute goal for France at The 2006 WCFinals……
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:41
Full Time Stats…..
Spain : Possession 62% / 469 / 556 [84%] Final 1/3 : 90 / 126 Shots 2 / 8
Portugal: Possession 38% / 255 / 330 [77%] Final 1/3: 45 / 70 Shots: 3 / 11
Ed - Wednesday 21:41
Into extra time
It’s not been a great game, but it’s been a fascinating game. Tactically and technically superb but both teams cancelling each other out at the moment. Ronaldo may yet rue blasting over from 15 yards out right near the end when he had to at least work the goalkeeper. Spain on the other hand may have to show a little more ambition and gamble on pushing more players forward if they want to win this match in extra time.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:37
Linekar’s Astute Declaration….
“Well that was Rubbish…”
Gary Linekar show’s all the finesse and astute analytical clarity of a Baboon’s arse…….
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:35
Poor Weak Ref….
Falling for the Spanish Acting… increases the yellow card tally…..
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:34
Being asked to play that 10-15yds further back in that metronomic position suits his passing but not necessarily his creativity…
A solid 7 which is not his norm..
Passes: 67 / 69 [97%] / Attacking 1/3 : 12 / 12 [100%] / Chances created: 3 / Shots 1 [1 on target]
Ed - Wednesday 21:33
Heading into extra time
The match has turned into something of a stalemate. Spain not throwing caution to the wind, Portugal still trying to break with the possession they have…
… and as I type that Portugal creates and outstanding chance for Ronaldo down the left wing. The former United man blazes high and wide. A difficult chance for most, wonderful opportunity for Ronaldo.
Ed - Wednesday 21:29
Spain over cautious?
The Spanish clearly wary of Portugal’s threat on the break, and are throwing few players forward in attack. One attack just now saw Iniesta trying to plough through five Portuguese players, with no colleague within 25 yards.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:28
Nani Not given Credit….
Have to pick you up there Ed…. Nani has not received the credit he deserves for cutting out the histrionics and simulation over the past 2011/12 season… Penny finally dropped although too late for the reputation…..
Ed - Wednesday 21:27
Ronaldo free kick, II and III
And this time the former United forward…
…. slams the ball into the wall and wins another free kick for handball against Busquets.
Ronaldo then, with 10 yards gained, lifts the ball over the wall and goal. The wall was nowhere near 10 yards away, having not so much crept forward and left forward when the referee’s back was turned.
Ed - Wednesday 21:24
Diving and Rolling Around
It’s turning into a Real Madrid versus Barcelona encounter with players rolling around at every opportunity. Nani has spent plenty of time rolling around, only to then find the shoe on the other foot with Jordi Alba rolling around after a strong 50/50.
Ed - Wednesday 21:20
The United man has enjoyed a strong tournament, but he’s not excelling here:
Passing: 7/12 (58%)
Attacking third: 2/4 (50%)
Chances created: 0
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:16
Barcelona – Spanish Agro raising its Head….
Pepe and Fabregras now definitely targeting each other with the more artistic interpretation of football’s falls and dives…..
Ed - Wednesday 21:15
Ronaldo free kick
And the former United forward…
… slams it just over the bar. Wasted opportunity for a man of Ronaldo’s class, although the Spanish wall wasn’t much more than five yards away from the kick. Some world class arm flapping when Ronaldo got fouled though, including on the way down. Still the best arm flapper around.
Ed - Wednesday 21:06
Spain’s disastrous experiment with a centre forward comes to an abrupt end.
Says Rant Cast’s @UtdRantCast on Twitter. Has his one-man WAR ON FALSE 9s come to an end too? It would seem that the man has gone native! El RantCastero
Ed - Wednesday 21:04
And no surprise there as the Manchester City midfielder has had his least effective game for Spain at the tournament. One shot, just 78% pass completion, 66% in the final third, no chances created…
Jony Ball - Wednesday 21:04
Having Major Influences in your team like Ronaldo, Pepe, Coentrao so familiar with the Spanish style of play seemingly as removed their veil of invulnerability……
Ed - Wednesday 20:57
Will it Portugal’s two days extra rest count here? Spain’s high tempo pressing (and Portugal’s high tempo pressing) both require genuine fitness. It could prove decisive in the final 20 minutes…
… as the first substitution of the game is made with Fabregas coming on for Negredo. We don’t like to blow our trumpets here at Rant. But see below for the prediction!
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:57
Putting Spain’s Defence under pressure….
Not only the pressing has been important but Portugals willingness to get balls into the box from the wide areas…
Ed - Wednesday 20:55
Spain defeats in competitive games
One defeat in 44 competitive games going back to 1970 – that was against Switzerland at the last World Cup, when the Swiss took parking the bus to a whole new level (since copied by Chelsea, etc).
Gives some context to just how hard the task Portugal is facing up to – and taking to the Spanish.
Ed - Wednesday 20:49
How long will Spain leave it?
… before Del Bosque makes some changes. Plenty of options from the bench: Fabregas, Pedro, Torres, Llorente in attacking positions. Can imagine it’ll be more than 15 minutes before Spain change things up if the score remains the same. But don’t expect another striker, Del Bosque may well go back to a real false 9, rather the ‘striker playing as a false 9′ that he’s now deploying!
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:46
Teams come out….
No changes reported……
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:39
Beneto’s Impressive Tactics….
Spain [Possession: 60% / Shots: 0 / 1 / 5 Passes: 256/300 [85%] / Final 1/3: 45/63
Portugal [possession 40% / Shots: 0 / 2 / 4 Passes: 153 / 190 [81%] / Final Third: 28 / 41
Ed - Wednesday 20:35
Well, a very even contest so far, with Spain having the only shot actually on target to date (blocked shots not counted). Spain is now dominating possession 60/40, but in truth there are plenty of mistakes from the Spanish in the attacking third of the pitch with Portugal pressing well inside their own half.
Ronaldo’s had a couple of half chances to run at Spanish defenders with mixed success to date. Seem the Spanish are happy to ‘take one for the team’ to stop Portugal’s major (only) threat.
Even contest this. Spain might be narrow favourites still, but there’s very little in it.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:34
Ramos In trouble….
Whilst he’s never been sent off for his country, Sergio Ramos has been sent off 14 times in 9 yrs… His most undisciplined year being 2005/06 where he was sent off 4 times!!!!!
Ed - Wednesday 20:32
… Is still very false. Negredo really isn’t playing as a traditional striker, coming up to half-time in this very even contest. Fabregas, Negredo… really very little difference. Torres plays differently, but it would appear that Del Bosque has little faith in the Chelsea man. Or perhaps more specifically, little faith that the way Torres plays aids Spain’s cause.
Ed - Wednesday 20:29
Ramos in trouble
A yellow for crudely taking out Ronaldo and now club colleague Ramos is in real trouble. Reducing Spain to 10 will surely be a Portuguese tactic now. Run, run and run some more at the right-back-cum-central-defender…
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:28
Hair Product (Y) x Television Air Time (z) = Ronaldo Arm Flapping (x)
Match Rating (q) – Actual Times Fouled2 (p2)
Ed - Wednesday 20:27
Don’t be soft Jony!! Next you’ll be saying United get all the decisions at Old Trafford!
Ed - Wednesday 20:25
Spain’s front three not working
Negredo hardly been in the game, Silva making mistakes and Iniesta not nearly as influential as during the tournament to date. Questions for Del Bosque – the toughest match (including Italy) of Spain’s tournament to date. Being asked some real questions.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:23
The president of UEFA’s Referee Committee is ALSO the Spainish Federations President…
Ed - Wednesday 20:23
Great pressing from Portugal so far bringing mistakes, especially when Spain get into the final third. It’s really telling that Spain’s pass completion rate is down at 85% – that’s a dream for England, but down for Spain. It’s just 75% in the final third. But, like United in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals… can Portugal keep it up?
Ed - Wednesday 20:20
The loneliest guy in the room
Well, at least he’d have you believe it with all the exasperated arm flapping. He is, of course, 95 per cent of the Portuguese team! Or something like that.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:16
And a third controversial call..
Why on earth bring back a rampaging Nani unless you want to protect Spain (????)
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:14
Referee favouring Spain with two major decisions
Nani incorrectly (despite the biased commentators) ruled to have gone down too easily, and correctly called Ramos’ diving clearance as no penalty.
Ed - Wednesday 20:14
Portugal a lesson to England
Here’s a team that, Ronaldo aside, has many ‘less celebrated’ players than England, is a much smaller country, with a limited national league… yet is giving Spain a real contest in this semi final. From opening the tournament in very negative fashion against Germany, Portugal when on the attack. And it worked. Here, against World and European champions Spain, Portugal is very much in the tie.
Could England have adopted a more offensive style instead of setting up to not lose?
Ed - Wednesday 20:06
Strong start by Portugal
18 minutes into this contest and the Portuguese are holding their own when it comes to possession. Also interesting that Portuguese pressing is forcing Spain into making mistakes:
Spain: 58% possession – (81/101 passes completed)
Portugal: 42% possession – (57/68 passes completed)
Ed - Wednesday 20:02
Quite clearly the Portuguese will hit him whenever possibly. Already several long balls have gone up to the form United man on the left of Portugal’s front three. Nani? Not seen anything of him yet.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 20:01
Ed - Wednesday 19:59
Interesting start from the Sevilla striker – he’s not necessarily staying up top as the pivot. Already the striker has dropped deep, with Silva interchanging. Nine of false nine? The distinction is not yet clear.
Ed - Wednesday 19:56
Why in a game of this magnitude are there empty seats? Cost of tickets, cost of travel and cost of hotels is blamed, but this has been six years in the planning. Cost of tickets for locals, if too high, is truly disgraceful.
Ed - Wednesday 19:52
So what’s your view on the Spanish style. After years of being lauded as ‘beautiful’ it seems this summer has seen a true backlash. Far from being beautiful, tiki-taka, it is now said, is boring!
Yet, it takes real bravery to pass, and pass, and pass the ball… a skill that the English nation team hasn’t achieved in 150 years. Perhaps, it could be said, the real ennui is the lack of contest that tiki-taka brings.
Jony Ball - Wednesday 19:49
Average Possession : 54.35%
Goals / Shots On Target / Total Shots : 6 / 22 / 70
Shot accuracy : 31.42% Goals / Shot : 8.57%
Passes : 1278 / 1593 [Completed : 80.22%]
Attacking Third : 380 / 541 [Completed : 70.24%]
Dribbles 21 / 42 [Completed : 50%]
Tackles 42 / 58 [Completed : 72.14%] Blocks : 11
Fouls [Committed / Suffered] : 54 / 58
Team’s Best passer :
Moutinho 168 / 190 [Completed : 88%]
Team’s Best Final Third Passer;
Moutinho 79 / 90 [Completed 86.66%] / Nani 50 / 66 [Completed 75.75%]
Chances Created [Goals / chances] : Nani 1 / 13
Team’s best ‘Attacker(??)’ [ Goals / Shots On Target / Total Shots];
CR7 : 3 / 9 / 30
Top Goal Scorers
Ed - Wednesday 19:47
And the Portuguese keep the ball for around a minute before getting the first shot on target!
Ed - Wednesday 19:45
The Main Man
Let’s face it. It’s all about Ronaldo tonight. Can the former United forward get enough of the ball to cause Spain some damage. If anybody’s capable, it’s him.
Ed - Wednesday 19:41
Spain in ditching 4-6-0 shocker!
My esteemed podcast colleague @UtdRantCast has RAILED against the Spanish 4-6-0 SLAMMING Vincente Del Bosque’s tactics in the finest tabloid style. And Del Bosque has listened, picking a ‘propper’ striker for the first time in the tournament as Sevilla striker Álvaro Negredo starts. Should keep Pepe and Bruno Alves on their toes!
Jony Ball - Wednesday 19:39
Finally The Euro 2012 STATs….
Average Possession : 68.5%
Goals / Shots On Target / Total Shots : 8 / 32 / 72
Shot accuracy : 44% Goals / Shot : 11.11%
Passes : 2670 / 2990 [Completed : 89.29%]
Attacking Third : 719 / 891 [Completed : 80.69%]
Dribbles 34 / 65 [Completed : 52.3%]
Tackles 62 / 78 [Completed : 79.48%] Blocks : 5
Fouls [Committed / Suffered] : 45 / 64
Team’s Best passer :
Xavi 405 / 439 [Completed : 86.35%]
Team’s Best Final Third Passer;
Iniesta 131 / 156 [Completed 83.97%]
Team’s best ‘Attacker(??)’ [ Goals / Shots On Target / Total Shots];
Iniesta: 0 / 8 / 15
Top Goal Scorers
Torres 2, Fabregras 2, Alonso 2
Jony Ball - Wednesday 19:05
Line-Ups are in….
Jony Ball - Wednesday 18:04
Questions marks have again been raised over Cristiano’s ability to rise to the truly great occasions.
“These games are part of my life. I have to be used to them. Responsibility Yes, pressure no.”
A title winner with Madrid, he finally assisted Jose Mourinho in breaking FCB’s iron grip on La Liga…. An outstanding domestic season saw him score an astounding 46 goals in 38 games. Widly regarded as only second in the world to a certain Argentinian magician, Portugal will need Ronaldo at his imperial dominant best.
Although history doesn’t reflect favourably on the Portuguese and Ronaldo…
- Spain have beaten Portugal only twice in 54 years (W2, D6, L4)….But…
- All six of Portugal’s victories came on home soil and….
- Spain hold the head-2-head advantage leading by 16 wins to six.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has six European Championship goals in total. Only Alan Shearer (seven) and Michel Platini (nine) have scored more in the history of the tournament.
- This Championship he has been somewhat unlucky as Portugal have hit the woodwork six times at Euro 2012 – including four efforts from Ronaldo.
- But the Portuguese have lost four of their five previous semi-finals at major tournaments, and have never won at this stage overseas.
All in all it promises to be an exciting match, which i will conclude with this last stat……
Spain will set a new record of 11 European Championship finals matches unbeaten if they avoid defeat. Their last loss in the competition was the 1-0 reverse to Portugal at Euro 2004….. Can Portugal become the next team to beat them and produce the next big European Championship Shock for 2012…..?
Ed - Wednesday 17:12
Vicente del Bosque:
“We have to try to deactivate him [Ronaldo]. We have to take notice of Ronaldo. He’s an excellent player and it’s logical that there’s so much talk about him. We knew how to play against him [previously] and how to stop him and we’ll try the same tomorrow. We don’t want to look back. We will be ourselves. Of course, we have to pay attention to certain details, but it’s important to play our game and develop our ideas.”
“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.
“There can’t be any more beautiful opportunity than the one we have tomorrow. We could reach the second final in our history and we’re all conscious of that. We’re aware of our responsibility to the Portuguese people to continue in this championship.”
Ed - Wednesday 17:08
Plucky young upstarts Portugal versus big brother ‘boring’ World and European champions Spain. Spain’s tiki-taka ball possession versus Portugal’s speed and power on the break. Xavi, Ineiesta, Silva, Torres and Fabregas against, well, Ronaldo.
There’s more than a little needle between these two sides of course, with a plethora of Spanish-based players in the Portugal squad adding an air of familiarity too. There could hardly be a more dramatic Euro 2012 semi-final.
The pattern is pre-destined of course, with Spain likely to dominate possession and Portugal keen to use Ronaldo’s pace on the break. Can Portugal get enough of the ball to use Ronaldo’s talents? Can Manchester United’s Nani demonstrate that he really is Cristiano’s equal? The answer to these questions and more may yet determine whether Portugal has a realistic shot at breaking Spain’s hegemony at international tournaments.
The odds, omens and pundits may give Portugal only an outside chance, but there’ll be more than a few fans this side of the pond cheering the underdog on. In the words of the terrace chant, that boy Ronaldo made England look sh*te all those years ago. Now comes the real test.