Euro 2012 Semi-Final Preview: Spain v Portugal

Sport-locker.net previews the first semi-final of Euro 2012, as Spain look to continue their dominance in world football against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal…

SPAIN’S MIDFIELD SHINES AGAIN BUT MOUTINHO HOLDS KEY FOR PORTUGAL

Castrol EDGE Performance data shows that Spain’s central midfield trio of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets have been, once again, in superb form for La Roja in UEFA EURO 2012™, completing 91% of their passes so far.

In the first of the semi-finals, the current World and European Champions face their Iberian neighbours, Portugal, a team who have a gifted midfield trio themselves, in the shape of Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso. However, so far, the Spanish engine room has been far more impressive. Indeed, as well as scoring more goals (both courtesy of Xabi Alonso vs. France) and mustering more shots, the Spanish trio have also made over twice as many ball touches and passes as their Portuguese rivals, as well as posting a superior passing accuracy rate. 

However, the most creative of Portugal’s midfield, Porto’s Moutinho, has been in superb form in the tournament, providing two assists so far, in the opening game against Denmark and for Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner against the Czech Republic after a superb run and cross. Neither Xavi, Xabi Alonso or Busquets have provided an assist in the competition as yet.

Spain’s middle of the park does also come out on top in terms of the more physical side of the game, making more tackles with a higher success rate as well as matching their counterparts’ total of 17 interceptions.

In the tournament so far, both sides’ midfield three have played very close to each other, in and around the centre circle for the majority of the tournament so far (see graphic below).

Tonight, expect the battle in that area of the pitch to be pivotal in the race for a place in the final.

REAL MADRID ROCK PEPE GOES HEAD TO HEAD WITH BARCA RIVALS

According to Castrol EDGE Performance research, Portuguese hardman Pepe has been a key element in his team’s march to the last four, netting Portugal’s first goal of UEFA EURO 2012™ (v Denmark) and creating four goal-scoring chances for team-mates.

This impressive attacking play from the Real Madrid star compares very favourably to Spain’s central defensive duo of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, who have yet to score or created a single chance for a team-mate, despite the Barça man making touching the ball seven times the opposition box so far.  Unsurprisingly, the Spanish pair have been far more successful with their distribution than Pepe and his defensive partner, Bruno Alves. 

However, the main job of a central defender is to defend, and in this area, Pepe has also impressed, particularly with his ball-winning skills. As well as challenging for 28 duels (just three less than Pique), the Portuguese star has won a whopping 86% of them, a far superior figure to the other three players and joint-best rate in the competition so far alongside Matts Hummels. He’s also committed only one foul in 360 minutes, which goes against the general perception that he is an overly physical player. Add to this a haul of nine interceptions, and it becomes clear that on Wednesday, the Spanish attack will face an incredibly powerful and difficult opponent at the heart of the Portuguese backline.

UEFA EURO 2012™ – Portugal & Spain Centre-Halves

RONALDO NEARING GREATNESS IN EURO 2012

Castrol EDGE Performance analysis shows that Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is starting to replicate his superb club form for his national team, with the Real Madrid attacker breaking all kinds of records in at UEFA EURO 2012™, including mustering the most ever shots (including blocked) at a single European Championship Finals (1980-2012).

Ronaldo’s record-breaking haul of 30 shots so far includes three goals, which also makes him the joint top-scorer at UEFA EURO 2012™ so far.

Four of Ronaldo’s shots in UEFA EURO 2012™ also came back off the woodwork, more than any other player at a single Euro Finals tournament (1980 – 2012) (see graphic below). 

Starting mainly on the left flank, the former Manchester United starlet has been at his most dangerous cutting in onto his right foot, something that Spanish right-back (and Real Madrid team-mate), Alvaro Arbeloa will no doubt be well aware of (see graphic below).

Getting close to Ronaldo and limiting the service to him could be key to Spain overcoming their neighbours in Wednesday’s last four clash. However, if the world-class attacker finds the form which has already seen him light up Poland and Ukraine, Portugal could find themselves in their second EURO Final in three tournaments while their star player, who is currently level with Nuno Gomes as Portugal’s top scorer at European Championships with five goals, could cement his place as an all-time great.

Who will make the final then, Spain or Portugal? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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