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What I Learned From Watching Day 17 of The Euros 2012, Semifinal No. 1

June 28, 2012

A disappointing night in Donetsk, as the Euro 2012 semifinal between Spain and Portugal unsurprisingly failed to live up to the potential of end-to-end soccer.  Here’s the rundown:

  • I will echo the thoughts of ESPN’s Ian Darke (who also said as much right as it happened on air) and soccer pundits worldwide: It is UNCONSCIONABLE that Cristiano Ronaldo did not take a penalty kick, Portugal for whatever reason waiting to use him until the 5th kick that never came.  If Portugal were also so keen on Bruno Alves taking a kick, they should have had him go 2nd, with Nani and Ronaldo going 3rd and 4th, then Pepe 5th if need be.  As it was, shuffling the order as Alves was about to take his turn had to have affected his mental state on his eventually kick, which hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced out, so maybe Alves should not have gone at all.  Shame really, as while I’m not sure either how much of this blame falls on the Captain Ronaldo for not stepping forward and resolving the issue of spot-kick order, his absence from the shootout certainly unravels much of the good he accomplished in stepping to the fore at these Euros. If Portugal can somehow develop or find a striker to match the quality of the rest of their squad by the time World Cup 2014 Brazil rolls around, the soccer pitch may provide the forum for Portugal to yet again conquer their former colony.
  • Once again, Spain found answers and advanced, regardless of whether or not some responses were less than satisfying for even the softest critic. As ESPN Soccer columnist Phil Ball so cogently stated in his post Spain-France musings, “…it’s always a progressive thing for Spain …”, and while several revelations there were made in the glow of a more impressive Quarterfinal victory, they still ring true as La Roja find themselves in their third consecutive major international tournament Final.  Spain started this tournament slow, just like they did in victorious Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 campaigns, and yet confound their critics at every turn, whether it be concerns over an allegedly soft defense (Spain has still only conceded one goal in Euro 2012, including a streak of 399 minutes without an opposing score), the lack of a true striker (Cesc Fabregas has 2 of Spain’s 8 goals, and Spain looked better today with the Sweathog up top than starting “True No. 9” Alvaro Negredo) or fatigue (Spain staved off Portugal yesterday despite two fewer days rest than their opponents after their respective Quarterfinals). Despite not enjoying their usual possession throughout, it was Spain who dominated the 30 minutes of extra time, looking their brightest and were quite unfortunate not to have won in that span, creating three sterling chances on goal that were either barely missed or thwarted by Portugal’s goalkeeper Rui Patricio.  All the more remarkable is that Spain made the Euro Final without having so much as glanced at Juan Mata and Fernando Llorente on their bench. I think some are mistaking a lack of perceived dominance for a lack of overall quality. No doubt Spain faced their biggest challenge so far of Euro 2012, but in the face of adversity they stuck with and trusted their plan, and truly deserve their place in Sunday’s proceedings.
  • While on paper Germany vs. Italy poses another delicious tactical encounter, in reality I expect Germany to shred Italy’s defense, often if not early. While I won’t underestimate the resolve and pluck of an Italian side that has earned historical glory by repeatedly doing what others said they can’t, I have severe doubts they will be able to maintain their newfound possession venture, and believe will be forced quickly (if not from the start) into their traditional fortify-and-counter catenaccio stance. This edition of German soccer can win games through creative ball possession, technical direct play or classic counterattacking tactics, but they won’t need all of that over 90 minutes to dispatch of the feisty yet outclassed Forza Azzurri. I’m thinking a 2-0 final score that flatters Italy regarding the difference.  At the very least, after two scoreless ties that were preceded by some of the more entertaining tournament play in several generations, let’s hope that the teams decide the results on the field instead of from the spot.

Up Next: Thursday June 28 (today), Spain’s opponent is determined in Warsaw, as Germany faces Italy, the first kick at 11:45AM PST.

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From → Soccer, Sports

One Comment
  1. EDIT: June 28, ~ 1:15PM PST to add several more links in the first three paragraphs.

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