My gut tells me this is the match Spain will lose. Portugal is primed for the upset. Portugal has the offensive and defensive stars and a competent midfield. Unlike Spain, they have come through a very tough group stage. Ronaldo is in form. Spain, regardless of what Silva says, is not as good as the prior versions. I really am hoping Spain go a goal down so we can see what they are really made of. Who will be Spain’s Messi/Ronaldo/Villa if they have to claw their way back?
Why Portugal will win
- Portugal’s midfield is well balanced with a holding midfielder in Veloso, the box-to-box work rate of Meireles and the creativity of Moutinho – all played a part in setting up Ronaldo’s winning goal against the Czechs. They can keep possession well enough against Spain’s midfield press. Hopefully Bento doesn’t try to change the lineup and remove the striker for an extra midfielder.
- Ronaldo is due to have a big game against Real Barspana. He buried his Barca demons during his last match at the Nou Camp and you know he wants to pay Spain back for World Cup 2010. He will dominate Arbeloa. Yes, Arbeloa knows Ronaldo from practicing every day at Real Madrid – as do Sergio Ramos and Xabi who will help Arbeloa out on Spain’s right side. However, Ronaldo knows those three and Iker Casillas also. He will relish going against them …and Pique. Why? Because this time, Spain doesn’t have Puyol to bail them out. The added benefit of having Coentrao behind Ronaldo is that Busquets will have to shade more to the right, leaving Alba one on one with Nani. Alba has shown good speed, but Nani’s trickery is cause for concern. The big questions for Portugal are which of Almeida or Oliveira start up front, and can either take advantage of the service from the wing? My money would be on the bigger and more experienced Almeida who can give Ramos and Pique fits in the air.
- Pepe and Alves have been solid on the ground. In the air is where Portugal has had problems against Mario Gomez and Bendtner. Spain doesn’t have an aerial threat, notwithstanding Xabi’s standing header.
- I will repeat what I wrote from the France match – Spain is not the usual Spain. Puyol and Villa’s absence has hurt them at critical positions and Xavi is not playing at his normal high level. Everything is just a little off for the Spaniards and there is unease about how well Ramos and Pique will perform together in the middle if they are put under real pressure. Their dislike of each other is common knowledge and the last thing Spain needs at the knockout stage. Yes, they dominated France, but that was a function of the lineup France put out there. However, who, besides Ireland, has Spain blown away in this tournament? No one. If you sit back, play defensively and Spain will wear you down. Portugal will not make that mistake. The only team that has kept Portugal off the board in this tournament is Germany – and that took major heroics at the end of the game to do so. Portugal will show Spain the toughest test to date and if it stays close late the pressure, and two fewer days of rest, will tell on Spain.
Why Spain will win
- Spain seemed a lot more assured against France. They were never really threatened and adequately defended the threat of Ronaldo Light – Ribery. If Spain dominates the ball, and more importantly eliminate any real pressure on Casillas, Ronaldo will get frustrated, drop deeper and into the middle to get the ball, which means he then has a longer way to go to score. That will play into Spain’s hands. It has been the traditional way Barca have stopped Ronaldo.
- Ramos and Pique haven’t really been tested and haven’t really missed having Puyol. The midfield’s possession game has alleviated any real pressure and if Portugal plays three in midfield (while Portugal might get more of the ball than most), they will not be able to keep sustained pressure with two offensive minded wings who need good, wide service to inflict any real damage on Spain.
- Ronaldo hasn’t played as well as everybody thinks he has. Trust me. I’ve seen enough of Ronaldo over the last eight years. He really had one very dominating game – against the Czechs who gave him too much space and time. His first finish against Holland wasn’t clean – and he missed another sitter very similar to the one he put away for the second. He will not get that much time and space against Spain, who have enough bodies to send at him to neutralize his open field speed advantage. Slow Ronaldo down and where is the goal going to come from? Portugal will have to rely on a dead ball to get a score.
- Iniesta. Pereira has had a good tournament, but he is going to struggle against Iniesta. That pulls Pepe out of position to help. Can Xavi and Cesc make them pay?
Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 Portugal 0
My gut is one thing – and I hope it’s right because Germany vs Portugal would be a much better final than a repeat of Euro 2008. That said, my head says the Spanish midfield will be a bit too much and will wear Portugal down. If Portugal doesn’t get a goal from open play, Spain will win this match. Coentrao’s matchup against Silva and/or Cesc will determine the outcome of this game. David Silva to score.
CH12, this is the Germans we are talking about. Look at the history, son. OK, so I am going to put in my comments in bullet fashion.
Portugal wins. Germany wins.
- Cristiano Ronaldo. Like he isn’t already motivated, Lehmann fires him up even more by saying that he knows his weakness since Arsenal has had great success against him over the last few years. I guess they must know something. Actually, packing the midfield and having Portugal not get him the ball enough was an issue. Also, Nuno Gomes is past the sell by date. Maybe Almeida or Postiga should have come on earlier.
- Portugal has pace on the wings – the German midfield and back four are just too slow. They couldn’t control Korkmaz properly. How exactly are they going to keep up with Simao, Ronaldo, Moutinho along with Nani and Quaresma off the bench? Short answer, they did. A lot has to do with going 2 up and then being able to stick with five in midfield to deal with the wing pressure.
- Germany has lacked drive in the middle of the park. IF Ballack plays well and IF Schweinsteiger shows the drive he was starting to display before his red card against Croatia, then Germany may have a chance – don’t forget that Bastian had a hat trick against Portugal in the 3rd place match at World Cup 2006. But I think the extra time that Deco should get against the German midfield – especially if Frings is out – is going to kill Germany. Ballack did play well. Schweinsteiger DID show the drive and the five man midfield didn’t give Portugal enough time or space.
- Pepe and Carvalho are good in the air. Bet Gomez doesn’t start. So it’s going to be tougher for Klose to win aerial battles. Germany’s chance is going to come from one twos between Podolski and Klose. Also, whoever is coming down the right wing needs to put pressure on Ferreira – he’s the weak link. Too bad Lahm plays on the left. Maybe Loew should switch him to right back to get the matchup. I don’t know what to say when Portugal gives up two goals from headers off free kicks. Carvalho was to blame for switching off Ballack for the third goal (Ricardo too – what kind of weak attempt was that?) and Ronaldo was hanging out for Klose’s goal. Ferreira was the weak link – he was beaten on Schweinsteiger’s near post run for the first goal and unfairly got victimized by Ballack for the third goal. Shocking to me was how easily Podolski held off, and actually accelerated past, Bosingwa and Pepe on the left wing before crossing for the first goal. Carvalho was jogging back and marking grass while Ferreira let Schweinsteiger come all the way across the box and get in front of him for the finish.
- Germany hasn’t played well since the first half against Poland. Nothing to say.
- Portugal is well rested with their starters having had a week off between games. Germany had to labor through 90 minutes a few days ago against Austria and Podolski is supposedly banged up. Frings did sit out but the extra man in midfield helped. And Bastian was off for a week as well…!
However, this is the Germans, so don’t ever count them out. Especially if Portugal doesn’t get Ronaldo the ball on the wing enough. Like I said…
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Germany 1
Result: Portugal 2 Germany 3
Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Michael Ballack (Germany) Nuno Gomes, Helder Postiga (Portugal)
Man of the match will be Deco… Man of the match was Schweinsteiger with a goal, two assists and tons of energy.
Ronaldo – this is what happens when you start thinking about leaving Man U for Real Madrid. I think it’s 50/50 that he goes – it will come down to whether or not Man U gives him his raise.
Hopefully, CH12 is better in the Croatia v Turkey game. Croatia is my horse in that race…
Portugal are through as winners of Group A and Switzerland are out with two losses against Turkey and Czech Republic. The winner of the Turkey/Czech Republic game goes through to the next round to play Croatia. They are even on points, goal difference and goals scored, so if it is a draw at regular time, there will be penalties to determine the winner.
The main game is about matchups. Both teams play well collectively, have good technical skill, are tough to break down defensively, have had recent success on the world/Euro stage and strikers who are good but yet to set the tournament alight. Czech Republic vs Turkey. Petr Cech vs Volkan Demirel in goal. Tuncay and Nihat vs Koller and Baros (and Coach Brueckner needs to start both of them) up front. Servet Cetin vs Rozenahl at center back. Turan vs Sionko at attacking midfield. All key matchups that need to be contested. We need to see Altintop step up for the Turks – he has too much talent to not have an impact. This is not going to penalties much as that would be highly entertaining given Demirel’s heroics for Fener against Sevilla in the Champions League and Cech’s participation in one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts in recent memory in the 2008 Champions League Final. I predict a Czech Republic victory in a close game. Even if it goes to penalties, I will pick the Czechs to win.
“I will make about five changes before the match and the standard three (substitutions) during it,” said Scolari. I wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland does the same to blood some of the younger players. So it’s tough to call this one with the Swiss probably desperate to win at least one match at home. That said, I think the Portugese bench players who start will be desperate to impress Scolari, so the intensity will be even higher. I predict a Portugal win with Nani and Almeida on the scoreboard.
Pre-game predictions: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 1
Portugal 3 Switzerland 2