Ronaldo seeks defining moment as Spain ride out tiki-taka backlash
Adam Hurrey's crusade to analyse, in excruciating depth, the unique language of football.
Euro 2012 reaches the pointy end of the tournament as Portugal meets Spain in tonight's 1st Semi-Final. On the blog today our Euro 2012 correspondent Adam Hurrey delivers his preview.
November 2010. The Estadio da Luz rocks as the Portuguese stun the world champions with a thumping 4-0 win, with Ronaldo denied a virtuoso goal by an absent-minded moment from an offside Nani. A livid Ronaldo fumed, despite the scoreline.
Tonight in Donestk, Ronaldo continues the quest for his defining moment as one of the greatest footballers in history. After his side have fallen at various hurdles since his first tournament on home turf at Euro 2004, he faces some familiar foes in the shape of Spain. As in the quarter-final against the Czechs, Ronaldo is a stand-out bet to be first goalscorer at 6/1 with Betfair.
Portugal can be backed at 600/1 to repeat the feat of nineteen months ago, the last time these two nations met. Before that, they have traded killer blows at major tournaments. In 2004, Portugal won 1-0 as Spain fell in the group stage. Six years later in South Africa, Spain gained revenge when a David Villa goal saw off the Portuguese in the last 16 of the World Cup.
The Spanish are on a remarkable run of eight consecutive clean sheets in major tournament knock-out games and are 5/4 to extend that trend. In light of the growing backlash to their supposedly unexciting style of play, Spain are 12/1 to edge past Paulo Bento’s side on a penalty shoot-out tonight. Vicente del Bosque once again must decide how best to utilise Fernando Torres. Left out against France in favour of Cesc Fabregas, Torres is available at 10/3 to score at any time.
For Portugal, Helder Postiga misses out with a thigh injury, and will be replaced by Hugo Almeida. Spain have faced the inevitable questions about the threat posed by Ronaldo, but the Portuguese threat comes from all angles. Nani drifts in tandem with the captain, while the midfield prompting of Moutinho and Veloso is a fascinating match-up with the feted Spanish engine-room. Portugal have the pace and precision to hit Spain on the break, but Ronaldo has shown that he is a highly-capable centre forward when required in a tight game.
We still await the moment that this Spanish side run out of steam but they remain confident and focused, unapologetic for their imperious brand of possession football. The more of the ball they keep, the more frustrated Ronaldo will grow - as we witnessed against the far inferior Czechs in the early stages of the quarter final. Spain have averaged nearly 70% possession in this tournament, and Portugal will need to prepare for a long shift in Donetsk to wrestle the ball from Xavi and co.
On stats alone, the Spaniards are already at home with the Henri Delaunay trophy. But with Ronaldo’s penchant for the explosive sucker punch, we all know that the most important statistic will be found in the top left-hand corner of our screens.
Adam will be covering Euro 2012 for the BettingExpert blog with thanks to our friends at Betfair.
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