Euro 2012 Bracket: Semifinalists in Best Position to Make Title Run
We have finally reached the semifinals of the UEFA 2012 Euro Cup. The highly anticipated final is less than a week away. The first match will be an Iberian Peninsula showdown, as title holders Spain take on Portugal (the true underdogs of Euro 2012). In the second match, Italy are ready to bet on history to challenge the undefeated Germany for a place in the final.
History, past showdowns, on-pitch statistics, chemistry and tactics will all be considered as tournament favourites Spain and Germany prove why they can make it to the finals and why an unpredictable Portugal and a promising Italy could potentially come in their way.
Spain Will Win Despite What History Predicts
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Spain have won only 47 percent (16 out of 34) matches against Portugal, and they have lost just six.
One loss was in November 2010 when the Portuguese beat the Spanish 4-0 on home soil (Lisbon). This has been Spain’s greatest defeat since 1963.
Despite winning most matches against Portugal, concern rises as out of the 16 matches won, only two of the matches took place since 1960. One of the two matches was played at the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
Nonetheless, this squad is looking to make some changes. Notwithstanding Spain's history against France, the Spanish had finally won a competitive match against the French on June 24 at the quarterfinals.
The next three slides will explain why Spain will beat the odds again.
Historically, Portugal Are 'Chokers'
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The Portuguese have never won a major tournament, despite reaching the Euro Cup semifinals three times in the past.
Despite making it to the semifinals, they have only managed to reach the final once.
Matters became worse when Portugal hosted the 2004 UEFA Euro Cup and made their way into the final.
Despite having all odds in their favour—including a home advantage and a team full of superstars Luis Figo, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo—Portugal lost. A starless Greece took home the title and left the host in tears.
Hence, even if Portugal win against Spain, they won't win the title when up against Germany or Italy.
Cristiano Ronaldo a Predictable Threat
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Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo scored six goals in the European Championships. Yes, he is the third highest scorer in the history of the Euros just behind France's Michel Platini and England's Alan Shearer.
However, the tally should have been higher, yet he continues to struggle with bad luck at the 2012 Euros. He has already hit the bar four times. Portugal itself has hit the bar six times, more times than any other team this summer.
Seven of Portugal's 23 squad members currently play in the Spanish La Liga, three of whom play for reigning champions Real Madrid. However, Spain's first team itself is made up of four players from Real Madrid and five players from former champions Barcelona.
Lets imagine Cristiano Ronaldo won't hit the bar again. But in order take any shots, he will need to get past club teammates Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos in the Spanish defence, then score against Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas.
Considering the hours of training the Portuguese superstar puts in at Real Madrid, the defenders should have a pretty good understanding of Ronaldo's movement and be able to predict him throughout the match.
Del Bosque Is the Difference
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Spain have won 92 percent (31 out of 34) of all competitive matches played under coach Vicente Del Bosque since 2008.
The current squad have together won the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and much of the lineup remains unchanged since the major tournament.
The current squad has been able to maintain a clean sheet for the past eight competitive matches (in Euros and the World Cup) and have only conceded one goal thus far at the Euros.
Considering Spain's formation is versatile and can adopt to the standard 4-3-3, the old 4-4-2 or the unique 4-6-0, the team will be hard to predict and prepare for prior to the semifinal and final.
The consistency in Spain's key players Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Cesc Fabregas are vital to the nation's run to the finals.
Considering the Spanish team is filled with record breakers and title holders, and as defending champions of the Euro Cup (won under Luis Aragones), the team will be more than determined to become the first team to win the treble (two consecutive Euro Cups and the World Cup).
The Past Favours Italy
West Germany vs Italy in Euro Cup
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Since the beginning of competitive international football, Germany and Italy have been the powerhouses of the game.
The sides have played 30 matches against one another. Italy are ahead with 14 wins and nine draws.
Despite Germany winning seven matches against Italy, none of them were in a competitive game.
At major tournaments the Azzurri have won three and drawn four matches against Germany.
In recent years, Italy have remained unbeaten in their past five matches against the Mannschaft.
Italy and Germany Both Have Equal Shot at Final
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Italy were unsuccessful in only one of their 10 attempts to reach the finals, winning 90 percent of their semifinal games at major tournaments.
Germany, on the other hand, have made it to the finals 11 times after playing 17 semifinal matches in a major tournament.
Italy have also been the most accurate in crosses, with 17 passes reaching their opposition’s penalty area.
In comparison, seven different players have scored for Germany this June, and the nation has found the net at least once in each of the past 20 matches played.
So Germany boasts the most threatening attack of the tournament with nine goals scored.
In comparison, Italy have had the second finest defense at the Euros with only two goals conceded.
Nonetheless, Germany Are Favourites to Win It All
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The current German team is the only national that has been undefeated in this tournament. They even escaped the “group of death,” securing all nine points.
They were also undisputed in the past 15 competitive matches played (including Euro Cup qualifiers).
It becomes worse for Spain, Portugal and Italy, as Germany was the only team to win every single one of their European Championship qualifying games. This streak went on to become a record for the German football team.
Germany are in the best position as they are currently playing with a complete side. They also have a bench filled with players who are capable of bringing on the same level of attack as the first team (As we saw Klose, Reus etc).
Hence, despite being head-to-head with Italy on odds to win this Friday, the Germans will most likely make it to the finals and possibly become kings of Europe.