Match Preview: SPAIN versus PORTUGAL
Stage: 1/16th Final
Winner Plays Versus: Paraguay or Japan
Time: 2030h GMT +1
Venue: Green Point Stadium – Cape Town - a beautiful venue on the very Southern tip of the African continent meters from the cold foreboding waters of the Southern Cape and within view of the mountain ranges above Cape Town. The atmosphere here has been perhaps the best, as Cape Town is a real footballing capital.
Referee: Hector Baldassi (Argentina) one of the best referees South America has produced, he is very suited for this game as he does not tolerate divers, is very good at not getting conned and keeps a good match flow. He is a candidate to referee the final... but this match will be a classic and memorable one as well.
Date of Birth: 05.01.1966 Rio Ceballos a wonderful little town in the mountains outside of Cordoba province in central Argentina.
Height: 179 cm
Mother tongue: Spanish
Other languages: English
International since: 2000
First international: Venezuela-Chile (25.07.2000)
Fondest memory: Uruguay-Brazil 2005, Brazil-Uruguay 2008
Overview: Although England and Germany got more attention, this is set to be a real World Cup classic, with two superb generations of neighbouring Iberian countries seeking to eliminated each other while at a high point in their footballing histories.
Install seat belts on your couch, and turn off all other media, this will be a thrill ride.
Suggested Menu With Your Game:
A true feast to go with a classic footballing encounter and to make sure both sets of Iberian fans can continue eating and drinking late into the night after the game ends...
Appetizer: A true Valencian seafood platter to unify the Iberians. This tantalizing grilling of fresh fish, squeakingly delicious octopus, succulent squid, and thrilling shellfish could well be the secret of David Villa’s goalscoring success.
Main Course: Portuguese people can hardly imagine a meal without bacalhau or codfish although the are more ways to cook it than days in the year. I therefore suggest a recipe which I love for Bacalhau com Molho de Camarão Picante ... cod in spicy shrimp sauce... cod for the staple Portuguese food, and shrimp to satisfy the picky overpaid and overrated Cristiano Ronaldo and his luxury diet over the past couple of years at Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The large presence of Real and Atletico Madrid players on the pitch (Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Alonso, Torres, Simao, Tiago maybe I am forgetting someone) will likely have forgotten the Spanish Capital’s Callos a la Madrileña , or tripe stew which has been long enjoyed by Madrid’s working class and will symbolize the stress and excitement level of this intestine-rattling match-up today!
Desert: Mató de Pedralbes amost like Crema Catalana... (or Creme Brulee) a Catalan flambé cream to symbolize the last word that Barcelona players David Villa, Puyol, Xavi, Pique and Iniesta could well have in this classic encounter.
Wine: Catalunya proposes you the respectable Abadal vineyards, which produce white and reads to accompany this surf and turf adventure, and their deep Merlot flavours should go well with the technical flair and theatrics that this game could offer.
Unofficial Theme Song to Accompany Style of Play :
The phrase “the time is now” will resound in the heads of the Spanish team who know that their country’s chance to win a World Cup is now... so the Barcelona band Jarabe de Palo’s mix of mellow and rhythmic vibes “Tiempo” (here ) or Time is highly appropriate to get the Spanish team going.
Tactics: Spain has developed the tactics that won them the European Championship two years ago, and basically present an ameliorated flowing, attractive, attacking 4-4-2 diamond of Barcelona. This is a complex 4-4-2 with players shouldering multiple offensive and defensive responsibilities, and many attacks down the centre and wings. The formation can shift to a 4-5-1 to enhance possession and defence with a forward going off for central or defensive midfielder.
Spain has an excellent bench, with every player associated with a well practiced tactical option. Although it didn’t look like much, Spain’s defeat of strong Chile should send a clear warning to Portugal.
Strengths: Spain is attracting many neutral fans with their clean, effective, thrilling brand of attacking football. Their speed and tempo has been too much for most opponents with Spain having only temporary interruption to three long running unbeaten records.
Weakness: The pressure of being favourites combined with fatigue from intense club seasons could show as it did in the game against Switzerland... but the need to win could cover these weaknesses up.
Tactically Spain can be a little undefensive, and this can leave them sometimes exposed.
Key to beating Portugal: Hit fast. Hit hard don’t stop. Let Cristiano Ronaldo get the ball often just like the Ivory Coast, and just like the Ivory Coast don’t let him get to full speed with it, he is useless when forced to slow down... watch out for Simao, who is a more important player for Portugal, and don’t get drawn into cards by Pepe, and Ricardo Carvalho and their theatrical antics.
Key Squad Members:
Iker Casillas was a legend at 23, is still a legend at 29, and his unusually average start to this tournament should stop tonight. People ask if he is really that good... yes he is. Hi reflexes are superhuman, and despite being a bit short he rarely gets scored on by less than perfect shots on goal. The problem at Madrid is he gets a lot of shots on goal, and lets in very little. The solution: Put Barcelona’s defence of Pique and Puyol in front of him
Pique, Puyol and Sergio Ramos. The Barcelona men offer an extremely fast, extremely technically skilled very modern defence. During their European Championship run coach Arragones had Sergio Ramos and Puyol switch positions for crosses and short passes depending on the defensive situation in an innovative, highly complex and highly successful setup. Pique has a rare ability to go forward and score, as does Sergio Ramos down the right, although he seems tired and less than inspired so far in this tournament. He has to find his form today.
Xavi is the best defensive midfielder in the world... I have no doubt. Although others get the credit, his lack of form or absences deprive spain of the creativity and command that the little Barcelona midfield general brings. He has been struggling with injury though, and is not in top fitness so far this tournament.
Iniesta is also vital for Spain and also struggling with injury. The Portuguese will attempt to massage his ankles and weaken his form with dirty tackling. On a good day he flows between the wings, the center of midfield and the penalty box freely servicing superb passes to his teammates and scoring goals like the great placed-shot against Chile.
David Villa off course. Never mind Fernando Torres who seems out of form this tournament, and who’s main contribution has been to open up pace for Villa, who started off in mediocre fashion against Switzerland perhaps because of the pressure, and now has already managed 3 goals in 3 games for Spain. His shot againt Chile shows his ability to score from anywhere. Torres on the other hand must improve his finishing, and his lack of concentration and self-confidence after a mediocre injury-prone season with Liverpool could hurt Spain in the tournament’s long run.
Finally if these players fail Spain has an excellent bench and a coach who knows how to use it. The bench includes the mercurial free-scoring Navas of Sevilla, the net finding prodigy Pedro of Barcelona, the talented Juan Mata of Valencia, the powerfully shooting Javi Martinez of Bilbao, the famous non-starter Fabregas for Spain (who could start instead of Xani Alonso), the tall and powerful striker Fernando Llorente, and the talented scoring playmaker and European Champion David Silva – although currently suffering mediocre form.
Unofficial theme songs to accompany style of play:
The choice is clear!! Cristiano Ronaldo singing “Amor Mio” (here) my love as if he was imitating dying sheep.... If this song managed to get a record contract, then maybe finally he can fulfil his immense potential for Portugal and give the Portuguese public a true reward for waiting for him to do something extraordinary against someone else besides Kazakhstan.
If not he can always try and go back to his traditional diving and bag a couple of unfair penalties.
Tactics: A solid defence is the platform on which a technically skilled and tactically improving Portuguese side relies, Carlos Queiroz has been overrated as a manager, failing to make a very integrated or effective team... until this tournament in which Portugal appear to finally be a real threat.
Portugal play a flowing 4-5-1 with good wingers and overlapping wingbacks with Cristiano Ronaldo as creative playmaker allowed to waste at least half of their best opportunities. This was really effective against North Korea, but has yet to prove effective against a major opponent.. not that it won’t.
Strengths: Unpredictability... everyone knows that Portugal has bags of ability but they don’t always choose to use it.
Their big strength in recent years has been the dark side of the force, namely turning to dirty fouls, dives, attempting to con the referee and force cards on their opponent. This has often worked, but there is hope in Hector Baldassi seeing through these antics which could well reappear if things don’t go Portugal’s way.
A player with Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent is a strength... and a weakness. On a good day, but not often for Portugal he manages to unsettle even the best of defences with his powerful runs and dangerous shots.
The best aspect of Portugal has been an excellent defence so far in this tournament.
Weaknesses: Cristiano Ronaldo’s selfishness and ball-monopoly can be a weakness as he manages to consume a lot of the creative energy of Portugal sometimes with drawing too much attention to himself, and wasting too many opportunities.
Otherwise, player for player, Portugal don’t have Spain’s quality despite some other talents present in the squad.
Their dirty style of play can cause card trouble, and ultimately result in reds reducing their vulnerable formation.
Key to beating Spain: Hit Spain hard with using opportunities, prevent them from having clear opportunities on goal just like the Swiss, and Cristiano Ronaldo finally playing at the top of his game with Liedson and Simao Sabrosa playing more silent but more important roles. Nothing less will win it for Portugal.
If all else fails, tough tackling and causing physical pain to the less aggressive Spanish could be a major asset the Portuguese team are famous for occasionally deploying.
Key Squad Members:
In Braga’s Edurardo Portugal seem to finally have a consistently good keeper, and together with Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera he is the only player with three clean sheets in this tournament. His saves against Brazil showed that he can play successfully against the top teams.
Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves seemed to have matured into one of the best Portuguese defensive pairing since the days of the brutal tacklers Fernando Couto and Jorge Costa. They have a tendency for very strong, sometimes brutal tackles on key opposition players without getting carded or caught.
Pepe is something of a footballing criminal, with an impressive portfolio of red cards for his 27 years, and an even more impressive portfolio of unpunished fouls in key situations. The Real Madrid defender is likely to feature as a defensive midfielder against Spain, and his studs are likely to quickly find their way into Xavi and Iniesta’s legs.
Tiago has regained his absent form in Atletico Madrid on loan from Juventus (where he had once locked the chairman in a toilet to repay his non-starting). He has been very effective as a central midfielder for Portugal contributing significantly in defence and offense. His passing and long shots are a real threat for pain.
Cristiano Ronaldo offers nothing for me to tell you the tv commercials don’t show. The fact is he has often played very poorly for Portugal which have with him present been losing points left and right to less-glamorous teams like Poland, Estonia, Denmark and Albania to name a few. On a good day he is one of the best, but those good days come more often for club than country... and he has flopped in big game like this one before.
The unsung hero of the Portugal team is certainly the unusually fair-playing and often game winning Simao of Atletico Madrid. His freekicks, crosses and corners are excellent. Despite his 84 caps and 24 goals for Portugal he is often benched by Carlos Queiroz for unexplainable reasons, as it was him and Liedson that were largely responsible for Portugal qualifying in the playoff against Bosnia despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s non-performances.
Liedson is the player drafted into the Portugal team late in the last campaign and largely makes up for the absence of a truly skilled attacker for Portugal with his technical ability, speed and natural goal scoring talents. Everyone but coach Carlos Queiroz seems to see that the Brazillian born Liedson who has scored 163 goals in the Portuguese league of which he was twice top scorer is an essential finisher that the west-iberian team has lacked for years. His technique and nose for goal are the reason that Portugal managed to eliminate an impressive Bosnia from the World Cup, and he should find his way back to the starting lineup in favour of the lumbering Hugo Almeida... but with Queiroz one never knows.
Expected Result: Spain oust Portugal in a thrilling 4-2 classic.
A Slight Surprise: Spain choke and only manage a narrowly fought win of 2-1 or so.
A Real Shocker: Portugal ousts the European champions
Obi Wan Asterix Says: This will be one of the most extraordinary games of football in history… I am not missing a millisecond of it and I expect, hope Spain to edge Portugal 4-3 in a classic game with the lead changing numerous times.