SPAIN vs. PORTUGAL
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Location: Donbass Arena (Donetsk, Ukraine)
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Satellite Radio: SiriusXM Channel 92
Odds To Advance: Spain -240, Portugal +200
90 Minutes + Injury Time Odds: Spain -½ -110, Portugal +½ -110
Total: 2u -120
Three-Way Odds: Spain -110, Portugal +340, Draw +230
First Half Odds: Spain -½ +170, Portugal +½ -190
First Half Total: ½o -170
To Win Euro 2012: Spain 8/5, Portugal 11/2
Odds: LVH SuperBook
Like the England-Italy quarterfinal match on Sunday, expect this battle of the Iberian Peninsula to be tight throughout and low-scoring with the side scoring first likely winning.
Defending World Cup and Euro champions Spain are ranked No. 1 by FIFA and have won 31 of its last 34 competitive games with its dominant tiki-taka ball possession style of play that relies heavily on its wealth of talented midfielders.
Spain advanced to this game with a 2-0 win over France in the quarterfinals with Xabi Alonso scoring both goals for La Furia Roja.
Even facing one of the two best players on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), don’t expect Spain to change its formation because it has learned that being on offense so much is really the best defense.
Manager Vicente Del Bosque may use five or six midfielders here, so the big question is does he decide to start pure striker Fernando Torres (Chelsea) or advanced midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona) up front as Spain’s main scoring threat?
Defensively, right back Álvaro Arbeloa will be responsible for covering Ronaldo, but knowing how dangerous he is, expect the defense to collapse on him because he is the one guy who could really ruin Spain’s chances of making its third major final in the last four appearances.
David Silva (Manchester City), one of Spain’s three extraordinary midfielders—along with Xavi (Barcelona) and Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona)—said in a story on Manchester City’s website that he knows this match won’t be an easy one.
“We’re motivated to win a third straight major championship, to make history,” Silva said. “But we know it will be very complicated and difficult. Every team can make it difficult for you.”
Whereas Portugal’s Ronaldo will be the most dangerous scorer on the field, Spanish goaltender Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) should be the best defensive player on the pitch. In Spain’s four Euro 2012 games, Casillas has allowed just one goal, and he just might be the best goalkeeper in the world at this point in time.
Spain will no doubt dominate the time of possession, as it does in every match, but Portugal will pose a bigger problem offensively than any of the other four sides Spain has faced so far.
With the midfield clogged with so many bodies, expect Portugal to attack up the sidelines with Ronaldo and Nani (Manchester United) to maximize its number of scoring opportunities.
If either Ronaldo or Nani can't find the net, striker Hugo Almeida (Beşiktaş J.K.)—who will likely start for the injured Hélder Postiga—may be Portugal’s best bet to score on the airtight Casillas.
With just five goals in its four Euro matches—three of them by CR7—coach Paulo Bento’s side may look like a one-trick pony, but it has actually looked better with each game it has played in the tournament. It has attempted 70 shots (33 on target) and hit the woodwork a tourney-record six times up to this point.
But toppling Spain is no easy feat for anyone, anywhere at anytime.
In goal, Portugal, which is currently the No. 10 ranked team by FIFA, will have Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon) and like a hockey game, this match may come down to which goalkeeper plays the best and not which side creates the most scoring opportunities.
The last time these two rivals met, Spain shut out Portugal, 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup and I actually think that helps the Portuguese squad here because they know what to expect and know they have to capitalize on their likely minimal number of real scoring chances.
So it boils down to a Spain team winning the possession battle against a Portugal team that knows it has to score when it gets its chances. And to me, Spain has looked decent but not quite up to the standard of excellence usually seen by the Spaniards.
And although this showdown may very well go to overtime or a penalty-kick shootout like Italy-England, I’ll take my chances with Portugal on the three-way line as I think the odds are just a bit out of whack (+340) and hope Ronaldo does his best Superman impersonation in Donetsk on Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Portugal 1 Spain 0
BETS: Portugal +340 (Three-way line), Under 2 -120
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