Having beaten France in the quarter-final, Spain will once again do battle with one of their neighbors when they face up against Portugal in Donetsk for a place in Sunday’s Euro 2012 final.
Their Iberian neighbors should prove a sterner test than France was, and with star player Ronaldo starting to fire on all cylinders Portugal will feel they have a chance to progress to their second Euros final in eight years.
Although Ronaldo has inevitably grabbed all the headlines at the Euros, Portugal is more than just a one-man team. Indeed, Spain already know this better than most, having been thumped 4-0 back in November 2010—Ronaldo did not register a goal in the game and was actually taken of early. Though he did almost score a superb solo goal, beating several players and audaciously scooping the ball over Casillas – only to see Nani mindlessly head the ball in on the goal-line from an offside position.
Ronaldo has often been criticized for not showing up on the big occasions, and replicating his incredible club form on the International stage. The Real Madrid star started slowly, disappointing in his first two games, but in the last two games against Holland and the Czech Republic he has come alive scoring three goals, and has arguably been the star of the tournament thus far. A big performance in Wednesday semi-final against Spain could put Ronaldo one game away from cementing his legacy as one of Portugal’s and soccer’s all time greats.
However, against the champions Spain, Ronaldo and his teammates will have to be at their very best. Over the past four years Spain have been head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. The tiki-taka possession brand of soccer has swept aside all on-comers, and most teams have been passed into a pulp. Yet, despite making it to the semi-final undefeated with eight goals and only one conceded, the majority of the media have been unimpressed, deploring their use of a “false No.9”, labeling them boring, and questioning whether they are still up to the ridiculously high standards they have set in the past few years.
Spain is still the team to beat at the Euros, and the fact that they have “apparently” not played at their best yet, should have the rest of competition worried. A win against Portugal would be their ninth straight win in the knock-out stages of an international tournament, and put them one game away from becoming the first country to retain the European Championship.
Portugal’s only change for tomorrow’s clash should be forward Hugo Almeida, who will come in for Helder Postiga, after he picked up a thigh injury in the win against the Czech Republic. Spain, meanwhile, has no injury worries and should name the same team who won against the French with the lone doubt as to whether they will start with Torres or Cesc Fabrgas. However, with coach Vincente Del Bosque claiming his players are drained, do not be surprised if he makes a few changes and freshens the squad up.
- Spain has beaten Portugal only twice in 54 years (W2, D6, L4).
- This will be the 35th meeting of the sides. Portugal failed to win the first 15 encounters, finally winning1948. Spain lead the overall head-to-head (W16 D12 L6)
- All six of Portugal’s victories have come on home soil.
- 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.
- The Portugal has lost 4/5 previous semi-finals at major tournaments, and has never won at this stage overseas. Their only win was 2-1 victory against the Netherlands in Portugal at Euro 2004.
- Portugal has hit the woodwork six times at Euro 2012 – including four efforts from Ronaldo.
- 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.
- Spain has kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at major tournaments. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas is unbeaten in 780 minutes (13 hours) at this stage since Zinedine Zidane’s 90th-minute goal for France at the 2006 World Cup.
- According to Opta, Spain haa completed 2,623 passes at Euro 2012, more than twice as many as Portugal (1,159).
- Spain seems to enjoy late drama. 5/8 goals at Euro 2012 have come during the final 30 minutes of matches.