Euro 2012: Spain v Portugal preview & team news

Spain and Germany will contest this Sundays Euro 2012 final in Kiev. Well we’re all thinking it. Something else we’re thinking is that while Italy could deliver against the Germans, Portugal won’t overcome Spain, despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s form.

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While the Spanish team, publicly at least, aren’t taking the Portuguese lightly, the rest of us are. In essence this perception could be Portugal’s greatest strength going into the semi final in Donetsk. That is, no one is really giving them a chance.

Portugal’s Manager Paulo Bento has advised how “It’s going to be about patience. We know what we have to do. We have to put pressure on our opponents in the right areas of the pitch. Our aim is not to defend all the time. You can’t do that against the world and European champions. We are aware that it’s going to be difficult but they also know that we can cause them problems.”

The fact is that despite all the focus on Cristiano Ronaldo this Portuguese team can defend. Pepe and Bruno Alves are testament to that. But against this Spanish team defensive duties will be a burden shared throughout the side. Pressing and sitting on players will be essential to choke the machine-like Spaniards.

The biggest problem the Spanish currently face are the variant of commentators who believe they are unattractive to watch. During their group matches and again against France they were accused of being cynical. Possession football now an obsession, apparently. One critic described their style as ‘Totalitarian’. A little extreme maybe but this Spanish front six can kill off a team as the opposition chase shadows to win back possession and in their endeavours Spain pounce on them when their opponent tires.

This is not a massively entertaining team, but they are the best team here. Lethal Weapon 2 was entertaining, but it didn’t win any Oscars.

Spain have no fresh injury worries after keeping the ball away from France for the duration of their quarter final victory over France. A six man midfield is likely to be maintained with Fernando Torres unlikely to start but should see some game time if and probably when the Portuguese begin the descent into heavy legs and weary minds.

Vincente Del Bosque reiterated the desire to frustrate by advising, “I would prefer if they {Portugal} play back in their own half, it’s a satisfaction for us to keep possession.”

In a nod of acknowledgement to the likes of Ronaldo and Nani he went on to say; “They have enough players that can provide alternatives to their attack, but I would like it if they played in a defensive way because we have solutions to combat that.”

Helder Postigas thigh injury picked up against France will see him miss out with Besiktas striker Hugo Almeida the most likely to replace him.

Moutinho will have to repeat his understated performances to date if Portugal are to build a platform of any description on which to build attacks. If Ronaldo gets frustrated early he could waver. What he needs to do is accept the different type of game expected and needed from him tomorrow evening. He needs to lead and not pout. A graft in a different type of midfield and on a different level from what he has needed to produce to date.

Ultimately it’s hard to see beyond the obvious prediction. But Portugal have momentum and have shown purpose. No match is over before a ball has been kicked. It’s just whether Portugal will get a kick of said ball.

Prediction: Spain 1- 0 Portugal.


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