Euro 2012 Bracket: Breaking Down the Semifinals
It's hard to imagine a more compelling semifinal round than the one we'll get at the 2012 European Championships.
There is the Iberian match between Portugal and Spain, a clash of neighbors and styles with a slew of players from La Liga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid on each side.
In the second match, there is the clash of traditional powers in Germany and Italy. One team is in the midst of an historical streak, while the other has made it this far despite being streaky throughout the tournament.
I've always felt that in most sports, the semifinals represent the finest round. Less nerves, less spectacle, but the sport being played at the highest level. The Euros are no exception to that, with these four teams set to do battle.
|6/27/2012||Portugal vs. Spain ||2:45 p.m. ET||Semifinals||ESPN/ESPN3|
|6/28/2012||Germany vs. Italy ||2:45 p.m. ET||Semifinals||ESPN/ESPN3|
|7/1/2012||Portugal/Spain vs. Germany/Italy ||2:45 p.m. ET||Finals||ESPN/ESPN3|
Spain vs. Portugal
This one is a fascinating clash of styles.
Spain's vaunted midfield likes to control the game by maintaining possession through accurate, creative passing and slowly building up the offensive attack, while Portugal plays solid defense, looks to steal possession with its strong midfield and quickly counter up the wings with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
In one regard, that makes Portugal the perfect foe for Spain. The Portuguese are familiar with Spain's tactics and will do better than most to regain possession. When they do, they are the most dangerous team in space on the counter that the Spaniards have seen in this tournament.
On the other hand, if the Portuguese fail to finish on the counter or are stymied by the Spanish back line, Portugal will suddenly find itself open for a counter-attack, and Spain is fully capable of carving teams to pieces if they are given room to operate.
So in that regard, the Portuguese counter could actually be its undoing if the team doesn't capitalize on those opportunities.
This game reads like a La Liga all-star game, so I won't bother going through all of the names. But two you should pay very close attention to are Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles of Portugal. Their play in the midfield—which will very often be spent trying to win possession back and keying the counter—will be the key to this entire game.
As much as I would love to see Spain go for a third major championship and face Germany to do it, I can't shake the notion that Portugal simply represents kryptonite for this team. Expect an open game with a fantastic battle in the midfield, but one that Portugal shockingly wins.
Prediction: Portugal wins, 2-1
Germany vs. Italy
The Germans have now won 15 matches in a row, a remarkable streak made only more impressive after wins over Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark in this tournament.
For the Italians, the task will be tall, but not impossible. Remember, they tied Spain 1-1. Streaky as this Italian squad has been at times during this tournament—tying Croatia and needing penalty kicks to escape an England team they clearly outplayed, for instance—the Italians can still compete with any team in the world.
It will be interesting to see how the Italians approach the Germans. Will they try to stifle the midfield—and Mesut Ozil, who absolutely dazzled against Greece—and return to the 3-5-2? Or will they trust Andrea Pirlo and his midfield companions to keep possession and go with four in the back against Germany's dangerous attackers?
This will be a more even game than some might expect. Don't expect the Italians to simply pack the box and hope Germany doesn't score. Remember, Germany hasn't beaten the Italians in the past seven Euro or World Cup tournaments (0-3-4).
While I don't believe such marks are terribly relevant—players come and go on national teams, after all—I don't doubt it will give the Italian side confidence.
There's your reasoning for why the Italians might win. Here's your reasoning for why the Germans actually will win: they're the better team.
Perhaps the team's only weakness, if you want to call it that, has been a back line that has looked shaky at times. Not shaky enough to actually cost the team a game, of course, but they did allow two goals to Greece and were perhaps a bit lucky that Portugal didn't net one against them.
But where else do the Germans have a weakness? They control the midfield, they finish opportunities, they create plenty of them, they are as deadly from a counter-attack as they are from a set-piece and they are hungry and motivated to win this tournament.
Italy will make things interesting. But they won't win.
Prediction: Germany wins, 1-0
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets hit the mark more often than Spain's passing.
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