EURO 2012: The Significance of a Portugal-Spain Semi Final

In tomorrow night’s first EURO 2012 semi final Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain do battle. If the Portuguese win it presents an opportunity for them to exorcise the demons of 2004, when the side lost the final, to Greece. If Spain win then two attackers will enjoy a unique record.

The Spanish style is lauded as the death of a thousand cuts: they link little passes until an opening presents itself and then they go for goal. It is a style known the world over, but it would perhaps be less successful if it were not for Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández.

Iniesta and Xavi will play in their 20th final together –representing club and country –if they win on Wednesday.

This is a sensational achievement and testament to the power of their creative partnership. When they are together the pair has the unlocking of almost every defense in the world.  Of course they still have to negotiate their way past Portugal.

Captain Cristiano Ronaldo told UEFA’s website yesterday that any complaints Spain had about scheduling needed to be ignored. The Spanish have been fairly vocal about issues with the pitch, but it is the Portuguese playmaker’s view that the reigning European and World champions need to simply put up and shut up.

“Three days rest is enough Some Spanish players have said that it puts them at a disadvantage but, as a professional, I think that it’s not a very significant detail,” Ronaldo said.

He continued. “It’s great for Portugal, eight years on, to have the chance of another final. It’s very difficult but we are only one step away from it. Spain is a great team, it’s our neighbouring country and it’s going to be a very interesting Iberian ‘face-off’. And I hope we can win.”

Portugal are not fancied, but they are a football team that graft and consider each other. They are also much more direct than Spain. Ronaldo will run at full pace from the get go while Xavi and Iniesta will continue to slide neat passes together, in the hope that space eventually opens up for David Silva or their leading attacker.

Intriguing doesn’t even cover it.