This afternoon marks a battle of the Iberian Peninsula in the first of two two Euro 2012 semifinals. There's not much else going on this afternoon unless you're living it up at the beach, so here are 10 things worth knowing in order to prepare yourself for Spain vs. Portugal.
1. Spain has continued their recent stretch of success at major tournaments. What’s most surprising about their performance at the Euros is a 299-minute shutout streak, which is 25 minutes shy of the tournament record. That’s rather surprising given that they’re missing Carlos Puyol from the back line, but it shows that Gerard Pique has rounded into form despite having an average season at Barcelona.
2. Portugal continues to play at an elite level. There was concern they’d underestimate the Czechs, but they dominated the game with a 20-2 advantage on chances created. They eventually broke through with a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo, who just happened to run to the sideline camera instead of thanking his teammate who made the pass.
3. There are some who thoroughly enjoy Spain’s passing style, but it was painful to watch against France. The lack of a striker still seems like a problem to me. Outside of the Alonso goal in the first half, Spain didn’t create any good chances for a majority of the game. The substitution of Fernando Torres at least added a different element to their attack. I still contest this will cost them eventually, but it remains to be seen if Portugal is the team to prove that.
4. France parked the bus and played defensively against Spain. They’re normally a good counter-attacking side, but they altered normal strategy and are now sitting at home. Portugal is also a good counter-attacking side, so the hope is that they don’t change. Ronaldo and Nani have the speed to scare Spain on the counter. Both players are adept at running at the defense and creating scoring opportunities. Since Portugal isn’t the best passing team around, this is their best chance at scoring.
5. Spain claims it won’t change its style of play to deal with Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a tendency to drift all over the field, but he functions mostly on the left side. Álvaro Arbeloa is going to have his hands full, but he was able to stifle Franck Ribery when Spain played France. That’s probably why Spain feels confident.
6. Everyone remembers Spain beat Portugal 1-0 at the World Cup two years ago, but Portugal beat Spain 4-0 just five months later. It at least gives Portugal some hope that they can win.
7. Spain isn’t dealing with any new injuries or yellow-card accumulation suspensions. It’s all systems go for La Furia Roja.
8. Portugal striker Helder Positga misses out on the match due to an injury suffered last game. It’s a loss, but not one that Portugal can’t recover from. They’ve historically never gotten much from their strikers.
9. My best bet suggestions have continued to produce as the tournament goes along. Today I like more goals in the second half than the first half (+105) and Spain to win in 90 minutes (-110).
10. If the second bet in point #9 doesn’t make it obvious, I’m picking Spain to advance by a 2-0 score margin. Portugal won’t create as many chances as they have earlier in the tournament because Spain will dominate possession. That will frustrate Portugal and Ronaldo will inevitably start yelling at his teammates. I’d love to see the upset here, but I just don’t see it happening.