Defending champions Spain are set to meet their Iberian neighbours Portugal in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 at Donbass Arena Stadium, on Wednesday, June 27.
On Saturday, Spain prevailed over France, 2-0, on the back of a brace of goals by Xabi Alonso, in the third quarterfinals, and will be aiming to reach the final and retain the trophy they won in 2008. Alonso got Spain the early lead on 19 minutes with a headed goal. Spain played a strangely subdued game despite dominating possession against an off-colour France, and did not add to that score in the remainder of regulation time.
Two minutes into injury time, Anthony Reveillere brought down Pedro, inside France’s box, and the referee had no hesitation in awarding Spain a penalty. Alonso took the penalty kick and put the ball past France’s keeper, Lloris, to the left corner, to seal victory for his side.
Two days earlier, Portugal booked their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 by beating Czech Republic 1-0. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the lone goal of the game, with a diving header, on 79 minutes. In a match dominated by his side, Ronaldo had previously had two clear scoring opportunities, both of which he had squandered by hitting the post.
The head to head comparison of the teams makes interesting reading. Of the nine games played between them, Spain have won three as against a solitary win by the Portuguese, with the remaining five games having ended in stalemates.
Curiously, Portugal’s only win against Spain came at Euro 2004, when they prevailed 1-0. In September 2003, Spain won 3-0, in a friendly game between the sides. Wednesday’s match between the teams will be their third clash in the competition, with the sides having played out a 1-1 draw in their first meeting, in 1984. Spain’s other two victories over Portugal came in the world cup qualifiers, in 1934. After thrashing Portugal 9-0 at home, Spain went on to win the away leg by a score-line of 2-1.
In what is perceived as a big blow for Portugal, centre-forward Helder Postiga is likely to miss out, on Wednesday, after a hamstring strain he picked up in the quarter-final game against Czech Republic. He is expected to be replaced by Hugo Almeida. Although Postiga has scored just once in four games, the mercurial forward’s absence could hurt Portugal against the defending champions.
For Spain, Torres, replaced by Fabregas against France, should return after a rather disappointing show by the former Arsenal midfielder. Alonso, who scored a brace in his 100th game, should retain his place.
Spain are favourites to win the semi-final against Portugal, with most bookmakers offering odds of 10/11 on a Spanish win as against 3/1 quoted on Portugal winning through to the final. But Spain would be wary of Paulo Bento’s wards who have been one of the few impressive teams of Euro 2012, especially with their iconic winger, Ronaldo, finding form, with three goals, in their last two games.
Spain’s probable eleven: Casillas, Pique, Ramos, Arbeloa, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi, Torres, Alonso, Busquets, David Silva.
Portugal’s probable eleven: Patricio, Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao, Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles, Ronaldo, Almeida, Nani.
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.