After twenty hard fought intriguing matches, it has all boiled down to the last four teams to fight it out to be crowned Champions of Europe! Last edition’s finalists Spain and Germany have easily coasted through till the semifinals while the magic created by Cristiano Ronaldo saw Portugal through. Italy have had a little more tougher ride as they just managed to scrape through the group stages before overcoming England on penalties in the Quarters.
You could be forgiven if you thought the first semifinal was a La Liga all-star match! Spain, mostly made up by players from Barcelona and Real Madrid, are overwhelming favorites to go through while Portugal themselves have three stars from Madrid in their line-up. Despite Portugal starting Wednesday’s semifinal as the underdogs, all the attention will be focused on the Portuguese skipper Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, after being widely criticized for failing to replicate his club form in national colors, responded to his critics in style scoring all of Portugal’s last three goals in the tournament, knocking out the Dutch and the Czechs in the process. All of Spain know the threat that Ronaldo poses and will take extra precaution to ensure that he does not get any opportunities in front of goal.
Spain, on the other hand, are a team filled with superstars and have frustrated their opponents to death with their one touch, tiki-taka style of passing. Del Bosque has surprised everyone by not employing a striker in their previous games and playing with six midfielders instead. Fabregas has led the attack in the absence of the No.9 and though he hasn’t done badly, Spain could have had more scoring opportunities if there was a specialist striker up front. It will be interesting to see if Del Bosque continues to play with the same formation or whether Fernando Torres will get a look in against the Portuguese.
The second semifinal pits up the German giants against the solid Italians. If this match was held a few years ago, it would have been a closely contested contest and the Italians would have been slight favorites. Although no pushovers now, Italy would start the second semifinal as underdogs as the Germans have been pulling all the strings in this tournament.
Qualifying into the quarters as the only team to win all three group matches, the Germans coasted past the Greeks putting past four goals. And this by dropping their primary strikers to the bench! Gomez and Podolski can be expected to return for the clash against Italy but Schweinsteiger’s recurring injury might see him drop to the bench. Samir Khedira, who scored a wonderful volley against the Greeks, will man the midfield.
Italy, for sure, do not have the quality or the bench strength as the Germans. But what they do have is a history of surprising everyone in major tournaments. Andrea Pirlo has been Italy’s best player of the tournament. Pin-point precise passes, smashing in a free-kick or chipping in spot kicks like only he can, Pirlo has been simply magnificent. If Pirlo can maintain his form and put in two more outstanding performances, Italy can certainly dream of lifting aloft a major trophy once again, like they had six years ago!