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Euro 2012 semi-final preview: Portugal v Spain
Reigning champions Spain do battle with Portugal in their Euro 2012
semi-final on Wednesday with one man on coach Vicente del Bosque's mind.
Paulo Bento's Portugal possess one of the most damaging players at the
tournament in Poland and Ukraine with Cristiano Ronaldo's three goals to date
and constant threat helping them into the last four in style.
The Spaniards know Ronaldo all too well with four likely starters being
team-mates of his at Real Madrid, while another five have played against him
countless times for Barcelona.
Ronaldo scored the winner as Portugal played the Czech Republic off the park
in their 1-0 quarter-final win and will pose a threat to Spain, who were
thoroughly dominant against France to win 2-0.
Despite striker Helder Postiga sidelined with a hamstring injury, Del Bosque
is not expecting Bento to spring any major tactical surprises.
"They are going to keep the 4-3-3 that they have used so far," Del Bosque
"It is true that the other teams that we have faced have made reinforcements
to their defence, but I don't expect that Portugal will change anything."
Portugal have been lethal on the counter-attack in wins against the Czechs
and the Netherlands and although they required a playoff to reach the
tournament, they appear to have reached their peak at the right time.
"Portugal have players like Nani, who is a very intelligent footballer,
(Joao) Moutinho with his clever passes, (Raul) Meireles and his powerful shots
from outside of the area," Del Bosque said.
"They have strong and powerful defenders and two full-backs that fit well in
their attacking shape."
But with Ronaldo on the other side, Del Bosque knows that Spain's possession
style could play into the hands of Portugal, as it did when they handed Spain
their biggest defeat since 1950 with a 4-0 friendly win in Lisbon in 2010.
"They don't need much of the ball because with one counter-attack or one long
ball they have Ronaldo," he said.
"It is obvious that he is a one-off; there is nobody else like him. I would
like to keep him quiet and not let him play, but this will need lots of
team-work in order to deny him space when Portugal have the ball."
Del Bosque has raised eyebrows throughout the tournament by fielding an 11
without a recognised striker.
Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas has occupied the 'false nine' position for
much of the tournament, relegating Chelsea striker Fernando Torres to bit-part
roles after a lean season.
World-class midfielders Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso
and David Silva lend support to effectively comprise a six-man, interchangeable
Spain maintain their favourites tag as the reigning world and European
champions but will be wary of a dangerous Portugal side sure to make this a
memorable Iberian clash.