Euro 2012: Semi-Final Preview: Portugal vs Spain

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Euro 2012: Portugal vs Spain Preview
Donetsk, Jun 26: Iberian rivals Spain and Portugal look to seal a place in the Euro 2012 final when the two teams clash heads in the first semi-finals match at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Wednesday.

The La Roja Furia aim to qualify in what would be their third consecutive major tournament finals and to be the only side to retain the European Championship, while the Seleccao are hell-bent on reaching the final to win their first major trophy.

The Iberian rivalry was last seen during the 2010 FIFA World Cup where Spain dominated the proceedings resulting in a 1-0 win for Vicente Del Bosque's men. However, in a friendly match five months later, Portugal hit back with a 4-0 victory over the Spaniards in their home ground in Lisbon.

With both teams coming off the back of three consecutive wins, a thrilling yet exciting encounter is expected as Portugal star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will face his La Liga foes in Barcelona players as well as teammates and friends from club Real Madrid.

The La Roja boss, Del Bosque, who opted for the 'false nine' in their opening draw against Italy and quarter-final win against France, was heavily criticised for playing 'boring' football which indicated Spain's inability to score goals. But Spain's tactics worked perfectly against the Les Bleus as midfielder Xabi Alonso, who played his 100th game for Spain, scored a stunning header to put La Roja front and a late penalty to seal a play in the semis.

However, Del Bosque is likely to retain the same line-up which sent the tired and frustrated French packing. Their philosophy and approach is likely to trouble any opponent let alone Ronaldo and Co. To increase fluidity in the middle, Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas started as the false No. 9 but managed to score two in two matches while Spain's main striker Fernando Torres got two against Ireland in their 4-0 win during the Group stages.

Portugal are riding high on their captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who has netted thrice in four games including a late header against Czech Republic to push his side through to the last-four. The Real Madrid ace will clash against his club team-mates Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol and Alonso including rival clubs Barcelona players such as Xavi Hernendez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodrigues, Gerrard Pique, Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.

Paulo Bento is likely to retain the same squad except for stiker Helder Postiga who suffered a thigh injury against the Czechs, and will be replaced by either Hugo Almeida or 20-year old Nelson Oliveira in the starting XI.

Spain, as usual, will dominate possession while Portugal will look to hit on the break using Ronaldo's and Nani's pace on the either flanks. Del Bosque's team tend to sit back after taking the lead (similar to the France game) but look more deadly on the counter-attack with their sublime passing ability.

Probable Line-up:

Portugal: Rui Patricio-Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao-Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles-Nani, Oliveira, Ronaldo

Spain: Casillas-Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba-Busquets, Alonso-Silva, Xavi, Iniesta-Torres

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