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Spain v Portugal
Portugal v Spain
Portugal take on Spain tonight in Donetsk in the first semi final of Euro 2012 and hopefully both teams play to their potential and it could be a cracker.
In the equivalent of an international derby match both teams will have reasons to fancy their chances of winning through.
Overall Spain have a better record in this fixture although Portugal did win the last friendly international 4-0 in 2010.
But in the last 2 competitive games they have both won a game. Spain won 1-0 in 2010 at the World Cup and in 2004 at the European Championships Portugal won by the same scoreline.
Spain are striving to become the first country to win 2 consecutive European Championships and also the first to win 3 consecutive major tournaments with their World cup also included. They qualified after topping their group and then winning their quarter final against France. They have scored 8 and so far have conceded just the one from their first game against Italy.
They have done well without playing quite as well as they can but they are still relentless in keeping the ball for long periods of a game and make the opposition do so much running.
Another thing they have got going for them is now an aura which they didn’t have before winning the Euros in 2008. It is only through making the breakthrough that the belief has seemed to multiply. Not just from Spain but from everybody else they come up against.
That aura is something that, so far, Portugal don’t have. If they were to go on and win this tournament that would probably change overnight but for the moment they are still seen to an extent as a good team but not quite good or ruthless enough to take the winning step. As others like Spain and France have found in recent years though once you do win a tournament it is sometimes very difficult to stop. The Portugese have scored 6 goals and conceded 4 in the tournament so far but
Portugal are the only one of the semi finalists who have got there despite losing a game. They lost 1-0 to Germany in their first group game but won their next two to qualify as group runners up before beating CzechRepublic 1-0 in the quarter final with a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.
After a sluggish start Ronaldo has been improving and has now scored 3 goals in his last 2 games after missing a lot of chances. Ronaldo will need to be at his best in this game if Portugal are to have a chance. While Spain is all about the team and a great belief in their passing Portugal know they have to get their talisman Ronaldo into the game as much as possible.
There were possibilities that Spain could be more tired than Portugal having played their quarter final 48 hours later but there is a feeling that Spain are certainly the sort of team who could cope with these demands with their style of play which certainly takes more out of the opposition than themselves. If they were to look to freshen the team up though, there is a knowledge that they could bring in more quality players from the substitutes bench and barely notice any decline in standards.
With Portugal though there is a feeling that they need their first 11 to be fit and available as they have less real quality throughout their whole squad.
An interesting side issue is the race to be top scorer in the tournament. At the moment there are is no outright leader but there are a few players on 3 goals, including Ronaldo and Gomez of Germany of the teams still in the tournament. Spain also have 3 players who have hit 2 goals. With it being so tight will one of these players emerge over the next few days to be top scorer or is it too late for somebody to emerge from nowhere and top the list.
Whatever happens it promises to be an intriguing race and this game promises to be special. So I just hope it can live up to its billing.