Euro 2012: Ronaldo's Portugal to Battle Spain in Semifinal
Euro 2012 has so far offered up a surprise or two, and the appearance of Portugal in the semi-final qualifies as a major one.
When the draw for the tournament was made on Dec. 2 last year in Kiev, there was an assumption that Group B was a formality.
Portugal were believed to be a one-man band, while the Dutch had too much skill and class in equal measure to do anything but progress with Germany.
As we've seen with Greece's 1-0 win over Russia in the final game of Group A, football has a tendency to disregard any supposed script.
The meeting of the Iberian nations next Wednesday in Donetsk has the feeling of El Clásico, with the appearance of Madrid's Ronaldo against a strong Barcelona contingent.
The script for this game would say that Spain will be triumphant as they march imperiously toward a dream final against Germany.
Whether Ronaldo and his Portuguese team-mates can scupper their advances rests upon their ability to be defensively cohesive and ruthless in attack.
Worryingly for Portugal they are facing a team who have only conceded one goal in the tournament and themselves have the lowest pass completion and possession statistics of the three confirmed semi-finalists.
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That fact in itself is worrying, suggesting that Portugal have the ability to progress in major tournaments, but not to make it to the business end of the competition.
Little was learnt against France tonight as Spain dispose of a side that finished second to England in Group D.
There was no consistent attacking threat baring sporadic breaks in the second half, and this will come as an advantage to the reigning European champions.
Portugal will need to work tirelessly to dispossess the midfield pairing of Xavi and Iniesta.
If they do manage to do this, they will have to score against the best defence in the tournament.
The Euro 2004 finalists' best chance for success may be to set up defensively and look to counter-attack on the break.
Where Ronaldo figures in the Portugal's tactics will be central to their chances of success.
If Portugal choose a 4-4-2 they will be over-run in midfield. If they opt for a 4-5-1 with Ronaldo as a lone striker, they nullify their best attacking option by playing him in a role that doesn't suit.
At this point in the tournament, Spain are still experimenting with a team containing no recognised striker, with Fabregas playing a hybrid midfield/forward role.
Portugal have conceded in all but one game against Czech Republic. Spain have scored in every game so far and if they can grab an early lead it will be a long night for Portugal.
For the interest of the game, Portugal need to score early and defend a lead. Unfortunately for Ronaldo, Nani and the rest of their squad, all things point to a Spanish victory.
Spain 2-1 Portugal
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