Spain vs. Portugal. These teams will be vying for a place in the finals of the Euro 2012.
The last time these two teams faced each other was in the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup. It ended in a 1-0 win for Spain, thanks to a great goal by David Villa. It was a low-scoring game, but it got the job done for La Furia Roja. Cristiano Ronaldo went unnoticed that game, living up to his bill as a sublime club player but a disappointing international one.
Two years have passed, and the script has flipped.
Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life internationally, and, unlike two years ago, he’s expected to become a major threat for Portugal. Spain is without David Villa, and Fernando Torres is as disappointing as ever. Del Bosque doesn’t have enough trust in his other strikers as he does for his “false 9” system.
Spain are just getting used to their system, so the cracks may show this sooner rather then later, considering that they’re going to play against their strongest opposition in the Euro 2012 so far.
Take all of this into account, and we’ve got a high-scoring game.
Portugal are getting more and more clinical on the counterattack.
By lessening the goal-scoring responsibility from Cristiano Ronaldo and spreading it around with their strikers, the Real Madrid superstar is playing with less pressure and plays with more freedom around the pitch. This is proven in particular when Portugal's goalscorers include Pepe, Helder Postiga and Silvestre Varela—two of which are strikers.
This will certainly shock Spain if they’re not ready for this revamped Portugal.
If everything goes as planned, Portugal will look to take the game to Spain, forcing their Iberian counterparts to take a more direct approach to their game as time goes on. The tiki-taka approach can work, but it wouldn’t hurt for Spain to have a Plan B, as they did in the World Cup with teams who were prepared when they were faced with that tactic.
As a neutral, I am hoping and expecting this game to have good football and great goals. With the talent that both these teams have, it would be an insult to football fans everywhere if they didn't attack the goal for the game's entirety.