Spain vs Portugal betting
The question in the media is the right one this week. Coming into a major international semi final, can Cristiano Ronaldo carry on his fine form, and will it be enough to force his country into the Euro 2012 final.
It is not even harsh to suggest the result will be influenced by how the Real Madrid man plays. They may have some quality players in their ranks, and Spain would be unwise to forget Nani, Meireles, Coentrao etc, but Ronaldo is the star man and their real hope of unlocking a Spanish team looking for back to back European Championship titles.
They have named an unchanged side in every game so far, but the injury to Helder Postiga in attack will change this. Manager Paulo Bento is likely to call in man mountain Hugo Almeida, who offers a more physical, aerial threat leading the line.
Labelled boring by the French media, Spain passed their way to victory against the French with ease. They have still to set the world alight like the past two major international tournaments, but Laurent Blanc’s side never looked like scoring against them.
Coach Vicente Del Bosque has claimed his side are drained, and this may force changes. In turn, this could bring the recall of Fernando Torres and see Spain play with an actual striker, rather than a rotation of midfielders filling the central gap which at times left good play unrewarded.
Spain will set a new record of 11 European Championship finals matches unbeaten if they avoid defeat. Their last loss in the competition was the 1-0 reverse to Portugal at Euro 2004. The Spanish have kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at major tournaments. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas is unbeaten in 780 minutes (13 hours) at this stage since Zinedine Zidane’s 90th-minute goal for France at the 2006 World Cup.
Match Prediction: Portugal Win – 4.5 Betfred
According to Opta, Spain have completed 2,623 passes at Euro 2012, more than twice as many as Portugal (1,159). Spain will have the most possession, it is clear, it is what they do and will continue to do with players so skilled in the art of pass and move. Rather than the usual plaudits they receive for their easy on the eye style, criticism has come labelled at them this time around. No striker, no urgent desire to score, sometimes it seems like their reason for keeping the ball is to drain the match of energy and keep clean sheets. Suddenly the artists of attack look like a defensive side.
The no striker approach has also given them a slightly blunt look up front, and the importance of David Villa to their side is become clearer as the games go by. To see Xabi Alonso pop into the box alone to score a header is much of a surprise, and they have put balls into decent areas to find no man leading the line to even attack them.
They have played sides who have not punished them with the opportunities they do get, but one man in this tournament who can is Ronaldo. His dynamic style and undoubted skills could seize each moment and make it a victory. Spain are the better side, but maybe Ronaldo is the only clear matchwinner in this game.
Over/Under: Over 2.5 Goals – 2.75 William Hill
First Goalscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo – 7.00 Bet Victor
Correct Score: 2-1 Portugal – 19.00 Stan James