Euro 2012 semi-finals preview
With 12 teams having suffered the heartache of elimination, four footballing heavyweights remain in this summer’s battle for Euro 2012 glory. Firstly holders Spain take on their Iberian neighbours Portugal on Wednesday, before unbeaten sides Germany and Italy clash on Thursday. For the latest betting odds, visit www.freebets.org.uk.
Spain vs Portugal
Spain have progressed to the semi-finals with a minimum of fuss; a draw against Italy in their opener has been followed by consecutive wins over Republic of Ireland, Croatia and France. Despite scoring eight goals and only conceding one, Vicente del Bosque’s charges have not shown the ominous footballing domination of past competitions, but have not really been tested as yet either. La Roja’s starting line-up will dictate the style of play against Portugal, as Del Bosque must decide whether to field a recognised forward or stick to his six-man bespoke midfield.
Portugal were staring elimination in the face after opening-day defeat to Germany, but Paulo Bento’s men have recovered to beat Denmark, Netherlands and Czech Republic to make the last four. The side’s upturn in results has coincided with Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form; the Real Madrid superstar has three goals in the last two games. Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso will need to play out of their skins to get close to the likes of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta, in what should be a passionate and exciting encounter.
Germany vs Italy
Germany have lived up to pre-tournament expectations by winning all four of their games against Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark and Greece to steamroll their way to this stage. Joachim Low’s men have won a world-record 15 consecutive competitive fixtures, and have a blend of experience and ability to envy. Bastian Schweinsteiger is carrying an injury but should play, whilst Low has decisions to make in attack after resting Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski against the Greeks. Germany are certainly favourites in the game, with a glamour final against Spain potentially in the offing.
Italy were being written-off in the lead-up to the competition, but have shown a doggedness and togetherness to make the last four. Draws against Spain and Croatia have been followed by a win over Ireland and a penalties victory over England. Cesare Prandelli’s tactics and team selection have varied over the last fortnight, with 3-5-2 and customised 4-4-2 formations being deployed; the Azzurri boss will need to get it right on Thursday to stand a chance of defeating the Germans. Deep-lying Andrea Pirlo has given a creative masterclass so far, and will be pivotal in the Italian possession game.
Expect two tight games, world-class players and a scintillating showcase of skill, as four nations with a rich footballing histories look to build on their records of success.