End of Spain's reign?
Can Spain defeat Portugal in the semi-finals of Euro 2012? Guillem Balague isn't so sure...
Last Updated: 27/06/12 11:48am
I am trying to convince myself that Spain can overcome Portugal to get to the final of the tournament. But I'm struggling to do it.
I have faith in the Spain team. They are competitive, they thrive under pressure, in big games and - in a huge percentage of them - they deliver. They don't necessarily deliver by playing well every time, but in playing exactly the way the game requires - and that is a sign of maturity and of competitiveness, those things that are so difficult to attain.
They need to score a goal (Croatia), they score; they have to control the ball after the first goal (France), they do it, and they now even win penalty shootouts as well (Italy Euro 2008)! More: Vincente del Bosque has got it right with every substitution he has made (Torres made life difficult for Italy, Cesc scored againt Ireland, Navas against Croatia, Pedro forced the penalty for the second goal). But...
I see Portugal have a clear idea of what they want to do and have repeated their line up in all four games. They will be fresh after two more days of rest, as well. Although that cannot be used as an excuse, it is an element for consideration. Perhaps that will increase the 'active rest' that Spain get by keeping possession.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a player that can finish any chance - and Portugal will have them. At the other end we know Spain don't score freely against tight defences.
One suggestion to refresh the Spain side (also an educated guess): How about introducing Pedro perhaps for Silva or Cesc? It would give Spain a bit more penetration.
However, once again the discussion in Spain is whether the national team should start with or without a striker. If del Bosque feels Portugal will sit very deep, it will be without a striker at first, with Torres coming on at the end, as he did against France.
After weighing up the match I am still not convinced. It feels that Portugal, a bit like Real Madrid in La Liga this year, have got that little something extra that wins trophies.
By the way, life shows us its true face when we least expect it. My friend Miki Roqué left us this week and that is so, so unfair. RIP Miki