The Iberian derby takes centre stage in the European Championship as Portugal takes on defending champions Spain in the semi final today. Portugal is chasing its first ever international title while Spain is gunning for its third consecutive international title having won the European Championship in 2008 followed by World Cup success in 2010. Portugal is also gunning for revenge as Spain knocked them out of the last World Cup in the Quarter finals. The game has been dubbed El Classico due to a number of Barcelona players in Spain and three Portuguese players in Real Madrid notably; Cristiano Ronaldo who has been the standout performer for Portugal in this competition.
Defending champions Spain has been criticised so far for being boring as many feel their possession football has been boring to watch of late. Even though they have four forwards in the team against Italy and France, Vicente Del Bosque opted to play Cesc Fabregas as the false striker all in a bid to unsettle their opponents. Spain in the quarter finals finally broke their jinx against France. They have never defeated the French in a major competition. They will now head to the game full of confidence against Portugal. Alonso in his 100 game for his country scored a brace against France and will be hoping on maintaining that momentum. Spain will probably stick to Xavi, Iniesta, Busquet and Alonso in midfield with David Silva and Torres/Fabregas in attack. Spain’s football has been predictable as they will certainly try to pass Portugal to death in search for spaces to exploit in the Portuguese defence.
Portugal started the tournament on a slow note losing their first game to Germany and scrapping past Denmark in the second game but Ronaldo and Portugal have come to life especially from their last two games. Ronaldo criticised for his performance in the first two games sparked to life in his last two games with three goals and is on course for the Golden Boot. Portugal’s play has often been likened to that of Real Madrid due to their counter attacking style. Moutinho has been excellent in midfield and has been pulling the strings, he will be tested against Xavi and Iniesta regarded as the best in the game. If Portugal is to make it to the finals, Ronaldo and Moutinho will have to be at the top of their games. Spain will definitely dominate possession in this game and Portuguese defenders need to maintain concentration for the entire duration of the game. Ronaldo will come against his club teammates and they will certainly know how to handle him. The key for Portugal is to be disciplined in defence with their midfielders and defenders closing spaces giving Spanish players limited amount of time on the ball. They will also make use of the pace of Ronaldo and Nani to exploit Spain’s full backs who most times like to join in the attack. Real Madrid forward Ronaldo who is in the running for World Player of the Year with his Barcelona rival Messi said he is not under pressure to perform in this game. He said: “I don’t feel pressure playing against Spain. These games are part of my life. I have spent 10 years playing these types of games for club and country and I have to be accustomed to it. “I feel responsibility, yes. But pressure, no. It’s beautiful for Portugal to be able to reach another final, it will be difficult but we are only one step away.”