Spain 0-0 Portugal (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)
A decent enough contest, that went right to the wire.
Thankfully Spain were able to up their game since France, and Portugal gave them their biggest test of the tournament, so while this match did not see a hell of a lot of goal mouth action, it was still entertaining enough to watch.
Credit has to go to the Portuguese who bossed the vast majority of the first 90 minutes, despite Spain’s high pass and possession rate. The back line of the western Iberian nation held firm without the team ever looking like they were pegged back interminably. Portugal had a deadly counter attack game going, able to let Spain pass the ball back and forth around the midfield, wait for the attempted forward pass, regain possession, then sweep in upfield, through Ronaldo or Nani.
They certainly caused Spain some worries, but this was largely deflected by the lack of good crosses from the Portuguese, from Nani, Ronaldo and others. Attacking down the wins was the tactic, but the final ball was pretty dire all night and Casillas was not unduly troubled. Ronaldo simply couldn’t make the opportunities to score, blasting high and wide from distance on several occasions and Almeida was wasteful.
Just like against France, the likes of Xavi, Silva and Iniesta did not perform to their usual level. The lethargy on display in the quarter final was gone, but there was still a lackness in their form. The lack of a recognised striker to aim for is an issue with Spain currently.
You might not have thought that once extra time began, as the Spanish took control. Pedro was a constant threat, while Fabregas and Navas provided plenty of options down the flanks. Portugal were the ones who seemed to tire and get pegged back in the last 30 minutes, and Spain could have scored twice over through Iniesta, but the Barca mans efforts were, again, lacking his usual precision.
So, to penalties it went and it was heartbreak for Portugal, and probably a measure of relief for Spain, who can’t really say they were out and out the better team. Bruno Alves might very well have been unnerved by his delayed kick, while Fabregas did just get away with it in the end. The talk about Ronaldo failing to take a kick is strange to me. They are all pressure kicks, from first to fifth, and however it was determined, I cannot say anything against the Portuguese captain for choosing (or being assigned) the last one. Ronaldo has plenty of detractors who point gleefully at what they view as his desire to “be the hero” be taking the last kick, but if it had got that far, and if that had been the decisive penalty, you can be damn sure who the Portuguese would want taking it, Hindsight is everything I suppose.
I cannot sign off on this game without mentioning the simulation and gamesmanship on display from both sides, which really lowered the level of quality on display. Nine bookings all told and a lot of “play-acting”. I can only hope that whoever finds himself in charge of the final has his wits about him.