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Euro 2012 Semi Final 1: Spain vs Portugal pre game predictions

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Euro 2012 QF 3: Spain vs France pre match predictions

Prevailing logic says that France’s loss to Sweden and their ensuing internal arguments will result in the usual result – France getting summarily eliminated from a major tournament.  Normally I’d subscribe to that notion.  However, Spain hasn’t been special and France made lineup changes that didn’t work out, so look for Blance to go back to a more familiar lineup when the game kicks off tomorrow.  Spain should be slightly favored but a French upset, while not probable, would be only a mild surprise.  Spain be hoping this match doesn’t go to extra time – that will hurt them against the well rested Portugese.  France will be hoping for penalties.

Why France will win

  1. Menez and Cabaye will re-enter the lineup replacing Ben Arfa and possibly M’Vila or Diarra.  That will provide more offense for France, especially from Menez who was very lively against Ukraine in the group stage.  If he has a good game, it will force Jordi Alba to stay back and help even out the imbalance in midfield that any team playing Spain has to face.
  2. Ribery will dominate Arbeloa.  Puyol’s absence has moved Ramos to central defense from the right back slot and his replacement, Alvaro Arbeloa, is competent but slow.  Ribery has to have a big game for France to have a chance and he is likely to enjoy going against Arbeloa.  Just like Menez, if Ribery has a good game, it will force Silva to drop back to help on defense, thus evening numbers in midfield.
  3. Benzema has assisted on the majority of the French goals, but has yet to get on the scoresheet.  It bodes well for France as he goes against a familiar defense in his club teammates Arbeloa, Ramos and Casillas.  The Benz is due.
  4. 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.

Why Spain will win

  1. France’s undefeated run is over, there is infighting and neither Ribery nor Benzema have scored at Euro 2012.  That is a not a great recipe for success at this stage.  Spain is seasoned, used to winning and the manner in which they ground out their World Cup win will help them as they get to the business end of this tournament.
  2. Mexes is suspended which probably means that Koscielny gets the start.  While Mexes didn’t cover himself with glory against Sweden, and Koscielny does have more pace and has played well against Messi and Barcelona the last few times they have met in the Champions League, starting at center back in a tournament for the first time in a quarterfinal match against the defending World and European champions is a daunting task for Koscielny.  He is prone to making errors and there is a high likelihood that happens again today.
  3. Spain’s midfield domination will result in France struggling to score.  Cabaye or M’Vila have to have huge games in order for Nasri, Ribery, Benzema and Menez to get enough touches to score.  That will be tough.  Add in the fact that France doesn’t really have aerial threats to score off of dead balls and it just means they will have to have a lot of luck to beat Spain.
  4. Iniesta.  And Cesc.  Iniesta has been in great form and Debuchy will struggle to stay with him.  Cesc continues to do what he has done so well for Barcelona this past season – score off of well timed late runs into space behind the defense.  That should be enough to Spain to win this match.

Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 France 0

Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold France off.  Iniesta or Cesc to score for Spain.

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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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Chelsea vs Barcelona: Semi final 2nd Leg Pre game prediction

I know what Barca did to Real Madrid on the weekend.  I know Messi is supposed to be the player of this generation.  I know Iniesta and Xavi are incredibly talented midfielders and Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world.  But the only things that are matter are these:

Barca has the away goals shut out of Chelsea in its favor.  If Barca scores at least one goal, Chelsea needs to win the game.

Messi is going to be determined to show he is the best in the world after the performance Ronaldo put on today.

The game is being played at Stamford Bridge where the pitch feels smaller than the Nou Camp which means less room for Messi and company to play their football.

No Marquez and no Puyol in the middle.  That means Pique, who for all his game is a relative rookie, and Caceres in the middle with the mercurial Valdes behind them.

Eric Abidal got skinned by first Robben and then Ramos for the first goal.  Hiddink, if I were you, I’d start Kalou on the right.  Dani Alves on the right is at best an average defender.

Henry might not play due to a knee injury.

Hiddink is a scarily successful coach no matter the squad he has – and he has a tough, experienced, motivated squad playing at home.

Based on these factors, while I still think its going to be tight, I think Chelsea goes through.

Guus, this is what you need to do to win.  As I said in the prior post, (1) water the pitch well to slow Messi down.  (2) Start Kalou on the right and Malouda on the left.  Lampard in the middle.  Drogba up front.  Essien and Mikel holding midfielders.  If you go one down, then bring on Anelka up front in the second half for Mikel.  For now, Ballack needs to start on the bench.  (3) Make sure Cole doesn’t give Messi the sideline – funnel him inside and then have Essien pick him up.  Not Mikel who gives away too many fouls on the edge of the box.  If Messi tries to go to the middle as he did against Real Madrid, even better for you.  That’s when you have Essien man mark him with Mikel sitting in a holding position behind him.  (4) If Henry doesn’t start, I believe Keita or Busquets will play in holding midfield along with Yaya Toure to help out the two kids at the center of defense.  Resist the temptation to play Ballack even with the reduced Barca team speed if Henry is out.  Yes, he may be good for headers off set pieces, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford in this game.  (5) Make sure Chelsea pumps more diagonal balls into the box.  See how Barca was all at sea during the Real game with crossed balls – they scored both goals on balls like that.  Cech was wasteful with his long clearances straight to Valdes.  (6) Keep possession better than you did at Barca.  Don’t be so nervous.  Barca isn’t that strong at pressing.  You play in the EPL.  You can hang with Liverpool and Man U.  Why be so concerned about Barca’s pressure up the pitch.  Pass your way out.  You always have Drogba to hold the ball up.

Pep, this is what you need to do.  (1) If Henry is out, then play Iniesta down the left and start Keita and Yaya at holding mid behind Xavi, Eto’o and Messi.  Hold Chelsea first, give cover and confidence to Pique and Caceres and wait for Messi to deliver.  If it’s tough going, then bring on Bojan for Keita and push Eto’o wide.  (2) Score a goal.  In fact, score two.  Because I think that’s what you are going to need to win with the defense you have for this game. (3) Shave and get a decent tie.  (4) Start Messi going up the middle to confuse the crap out of Chelsea’s backline and then move him back to the right.

Prediction:  Chelsea 2 Barcelona 1

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Euro 2008 Final – 1st half in match comments

3 min: Wake up Sergio. You can’t be lax with your passes like that

4 min: Sergio, stay with Lahm. He will kill you if you give him that much space.

7 min: Ballack skips past Puyol with ease. Germany looking very calm.

11 min: Spain has not really passed the ball. Midfield is a bit clogged. Game is too slow to work for Spain. They need to speed up the passing. Long balls forward are not working. Put it through on the ground.

13 min: That’s much better. Great save off the redirect by Lehmann.

17 min: I think Torres has a mismatch that he is going to exploit as the game goes on on the left side of the German defense. If Friedrich is not at home, Mertesacker can’t stay with him.

22 min: Great ball Ramos. Torres got open. Great jump and header. Game on. German backline can’t handle him.

Torres scores.  Great burst past Lahm and chip finish.  Spain is all over Germany.  Ballack now needs to be careful with the yellow card he has received.

Loew – bring on Kuranyi or move Podolski up front with Klose and bring Lahm up to left wing and bring on Jansen or Fritz to play left back.  You need more going forward.  Make the change at about the 58 min mark.

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Who will win Euro 2008 – pre final

I picked Spain early and, while this is not an easy match up for them, I still think they will win against Germany.

Initial take on the potential formation and the impact of Villa’s injury

Villa not playing is a big loss but it may actually work in their favor if it forces Aragones to play the extra man in midfield – hopefully it’s Cesc Fabregas. That is going to cause the Germans to play five in midfield as well and I think that plays into the Spanish hands as they are better at moving the ball and will allow their defenders a better chance to handle the aerial abilities of Klose since he will usually be outnumbered in the Spanish half.

The match ups

This game is going to be won or lost based on who creates the most chances from midfield. I think Germany has really flattered to deceive. The Poland game was fool’s gold as they played too openly and made the Germans look better than they were. Croatia carved them up and they didn’t really impress against Austria. Against Portugal – good result but two of the three goals were defensive mistakes on free kicks. Ballack hasn’t played a great game yet. Schweinsteiger and Podolski are the ones doing all the damage for Germany. That advantage is going to be smaller against Spain. If Cesc starts, it will make it hard for Germany to focus on shutting down Xavi as the playmaker. Spain is too mobile and will give Mertesacker and Metzelder a hard time on the ground. So Spain wins the midfield battle and generate chances. It is us to Torres and Silva to get the goals. This is the game for Torres to deliver. I keep saying that, but with Villa out, it’s his time and I think he will come through. Cesc will help him out. Silva’s scoring in the semi should also give him the confidence to be aggressive in the final.

The German left wing is going to be a big battle. Podolski and Lahm on Ramos is going to be a very good matchup. Look out Sergio. Don’t forget about getting back. Lahm, with Frings backing him up and Podolski in front of him, is going to break down the left wing often. Concentrate on the tackle. Cesc is going to have to help him out as Iniesta is not the answer. Spain obviously needs to limit dead ball opportunities for the Germans where their height advantage will cause the Spanish defense problems. Free kicks are more dangerous than the corners where Casillas can be more effective. Puyol and Marchena are going to have to concentrate on Klose for the full 90 minutes.

Other

Lehmann is looking shaky while Casillas has been playing well. Spain seems to have a deeper bench, especially since Gomez has played poorly and Kuranyi not at all. I’d take Loew over Aragones. Germany has the mental edge since they have played in so many of these finals. Never count the Germans out. Big question – we know the Germans can rally from being down a goal, but can Spain (the Greece game doesn’t count)??

Pre-game prediction: Spain 3 Germany 2

Torres, Ramos to score for Spain with Podolski and Ballack scoring for Germany. Top performers will be Podolski, Cesc and Casillas.

I want to hear from all of you out there. More to come prior to the game on Sunday…

Prior blogs with my predictions on the winner are below:

Prior to semi finals

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/who-will-win-euro-2008-pre-semi-finals/

Day 0 of the tournament

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/who-will-euro-2008-day-0/

Pre-tournament (actually about the most accurate overall call CH12 has made this tournament)

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/who-will-win-euro-2008/

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Spain v Russia – post game comments

While the scoreline was a bit harsh, much like it was in the first game they played, this time there was no doubt who the deserved winners were. Spain outplayed Russia in the second half. Yes, the first goal made a big difference because it made the Russians come forward more and so there were more gaps in midfield and at the back for Spain to capitalize on. However, Russia really didn’t create many opportunities themselves. The best chance they had was off a free kick near the end of the game.

The first goal was not lucky – it was fortunate. It was lucky that Iniesta’s shot was way off target. It was a good, instinctive, pre-meditated run into space by Xavi and it was fortunate that his side footed redirect went between Akinfeev’s legs. Xavi does this all the time for Barca, especially this season, where he makes a late run into space and finishes off crosses. So, I will give him all the credit for the goal. After that, it was tough to imagine that the Russians would get back into it given that Arshavin and the midfield never really got going. Maybe Hiddink should have brought in another left back and let Zhirkov get up the field more often as he seemed to be the only one to get any penetration against Spain. Ramos had his best game of the tournament but I think a lot of it was due to the fact that Zhirkov didn’t have anyone in front of him and so had to stay home too often. Russia should have made Ramos pay for coming forward so much. Guiza and Silva finished off good set ups by Cesc once the gaps had opened up with the Russians having to press upfield in search of an equalizer.

Man of the match – Cesc Fabregas.

Some other observations:

Aragones, why won’t you start Cesc? Especially against the Germans, Iniesta is too slight to play in the midfield with Xavi. He also is not as good at starting moves – he is better in the last third. You need Cesc there to provide an alternative to Xavi else the Germans will put someone on Xavi to stifle the ball getting forward. If Villa is out (as he is supposed to be at the timing of writing), I would prefer you drop Iniesta and start Xabi and Cesc alongside Senna, Silva and Torres.

Also, Aragones, stop substituting Torres. He had two chances at goal in five minutes and looked good all game. He needs a goal for confidence. Why put Guiza on? Torres could have scored in the last 15 minutes and felt good going into the final. Whatever.

Still don’t like Puyol and Marchena in the middle. I have to believe the combination of Klose and Ballack in the air along with Schweinsteiger and Podolski’s quickness is going to give them problems. Get ready Casillas.

Ramos and Lahm. Look out Sergio because if you thought Zhirkov was problematic, Lahm is going to be even tougher for you since he has carte blanche to go forward just as you do, is low to the ground and cuts quickly and is backed up by Frings so you can’t just bomb down his side. Don’t foul Lahm with your usual tackling. Free kicks on the wing are exactly what you don’t want to give up.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Russia 1

Result: Spain 3 Russia 0

Scorers: Xavi Hernandez, Daniel Guiza, David Silva (Spain)

The Euro 2008 final should be great. I still think Spain will win but let’s see if Villa is going to play…

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