Time for Ronaldo to really shine as Portugal take on Spain
Can star see off Spain in last four? 7DAYS predicts...
The sporting world is full of injustices (think Stewart Cink’s Open win over Tom Watson or Chelsea’s Champions League victory) but thankfully this European Championship has seen justice done with the four best, most exciting teams making it to the semi-finals.
And the match-ups couldn’t be any tastier, any more wrapped up in historic rivalry and drama. If you thought the tournament so far was good (69 goals, only three red cards and excitement galore) then just wait for it to get great over the next five days.
First up is the Battle of Iberia and ever game for
a challenge, 7DAYS dusts of its crystal ball to predict the outcome.
Form so far - Started the tournament too defensive and paid the price with defeat at the hands of Germany. However, since then have played to their strengths and with every game are looking more menacing.
Why they can win - We apologise because what we are about to write isn’t exactly revelatory. In fact it’s so blatantly obvious that even our Mums would come up with the same answer, but...Cristiano Ronaldo. Regular readers of these pages will know we’re no great fans of Ron the man, but there’s little you can say against Ron the player.
The stat that shows he alone has had more shots than the entire England team says much about both. But while he can be greedy, there’s little doubt Portugal need him to be at his best if they’re to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy. There’s a sense that the Real Madrid star is not only battling his opponents but also the past.
In the 2006, 2008 and 2010 he preformed badly on the big stage, scoring just three goals against the might of Iran, Czech Republic and North Korea. Ronaldo’s already found the back of the net that many times this month and if he was to guide Portugal all the way then there would be more than just a touch of the Maradona in 1986 about it. On top of that his claim to be the best player on the planet would have to be taken ever more seriously.
Why they can’t win - Their potency depends too much on Ronaldo - if he is shackled by Sergio Ramos and Co it’s hard to see Portugal being able to force their attacking game on the Spanish. Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso will have to play the games of their lives for glory. Also, the defence hasn’t exactly looked water-tight so far and Spain will fancy their chances of getting a goal or two.
Form so far - Have got to the last four without really impressing like we know they can. Only really tested against Croatia and looked far from solid in that clash.
Why they can win - The one thing this tournament has taught us is that possession matters: those that keep the ball best, end up victorious. And no side keeps the ball better than the Spanish. Some call ‘tiki-taka’ dull and sometimes ineffective, but it’s won them a World Cup and Euros so far and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke…Also, the side is packed full of great players, who, passing the ball quite well aside, haven’t played nearly as well as they can to date. Expect big games from Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets tonight.
Why they can’t win - In 2008 and 2010 they looked far and away the best side. However, so far this tournament they’ve appeared edgy and seem to be playing with a sense of fear. It’s not clear whether Vicente Del Bosque knows what his best line-up is and, allied to that, whether his ‘no striker’ policy will work in a big, tight match. Against France they could have played without a keeper and it wouldn’t have mattered. But in a crunch clash against opponents brimming with confidence, the lack of a focal point up the pitch, as well as the lack of the injured Puyol and Villa, may well hurt them.
7DAYS PREDICTS - We’re going to stick our necks on the line, take a deep breath, and go for Portugal in extra-time...