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Spain V Portugal

Spain Vs Portugal

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Venue - Donbass Arena — Donets'k

Spain Preview: The Spaniards took a comfortable ride through to the semi finals of Euro 2012, as they eased their way past France in the quarters. Vicente del Bosque’s men were probably surprised by how comfortable they were, because France had the ability to cause problems. But once again, as we have seen so many times over the past four years, the Spanish possession game is just so hard to break when it comes to the big, high pressure matches. Spain simply keep their foot on the ball and they will eventually carve out chances.

It is a style which tires out opponents quickly and of course, perhaps the biggest thing which gets over looked about it, is that it is a great form of defence. Even with their slightly unorthodox approach of not relying on a recognised striker, Spain have still been convincing enough in the grander scale of things to go on and be the first nation to successfully defend the European Championship title. In playing Cesc Fabregas in a more advanced midfield role, the midfield heavy Spain are causing a lot of confusion in the defence of their opposition

This is because their opposing back line doesn’t know who to mark exactly and they are getting pulled all over the place. Spain only need a fraction of a space to exploit and release that telling through ball into. Spain though, do still look as if they have even more to come. Del Bosque has decent options of pace to come off the bench, and being on an 18 match competitive streak without a loss, having gone undefeated in their last nine games (including friendlies), they are still the team to catch. In 20 of their last 21 competitive tournament matches, Spain have had over 50% possession, and that is the greatest tool in their arsenal.

No-one can dominate possession like them, and it should be enough to keep Portugal back on their heels. The last time that Spain came up against Portugal in a competitive match was in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, Spain won that 1-0 through a David Silva goal, and Spain won all of their knock-out matches 1-0 in that tournament. So they are unlikely to go and score freely, but they generally don’t need to. Spain hold a 15-9 head to head record against their Iberian neighbours, and start as favourites. They just have the keys to unlock even the most stubborn and resilient of sides.

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Portugal Preview: Stubborn and resilient is just what Portugal are. But they are able to accent that with the bursts of genius from Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal tend to play a more cautious game, but Paulo Bento’s men have come out their shell a bit at Euro 2012, and with good effect. When they have pressed the issue, highlighted in their group win over the Netherlands, Portugal have looked a pretty decent side.

The core of their midfield looks stable enough, and the organisation at the back good enough to be able to release the likes of Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo in pacey breaks forward. A goal from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to see off a very disappointing Czech Republic in the quarter finals, but the lack of ability to kill off the Czech’s effectively and efficiently, may be an area of concern. Spain know that they have to watch Ronaldo closely, but take him out of the game and Portugal, while looking solid, will lose their big spark of inspiration and it will be a matter of them holding on. They will be made to work hard in the middle of the park, and the question is, whether or not they will be able to execute on the break, because their possession will be limited.

After failing to win any of their first four matches of 2012, Portugal have now strung together three wins in a row. They don’t look like world beaters, a long way from that, but there is an organised potential there. They will remember back to November of 2010 when they inflicted a 4-0 defeat on La Roja, Spain’s biggest defeat since 1968. The disappointment of losing the Euro 2004 final against Greece may also drive them on, and having been dumped out of the 2010 World Cup by their neighbours.

They have lost the services of striker Helder Postiga, who missed out through injury and that will be the first change to a starting line up, that Paulo Bento has made to Portugal’s starting eleven for the last six competitive matches. So Portugal are a very settled side, and the hard ground they cover in being able to set up Ronaldo looks pretty good. Portugal have struck the woodwork six times at Euro 2012 already (Ronaldo four of those) so they have been pressing hard. They will need to be organised at the back in this pressure cooker of a situation, and this will be their biggest task of trying to do something with the ball when they actually manage to get it, at the tournament yet.

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