Euro Cup 2012 Semi-Finals Breakdown and Predictions

Posted: June 26, 2012 by vindanton in Pro Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

By: Salvatore Eppolito

In the past four days, we have seen a super star carry his team, the beginning and end of two eras of international football, as well as exceeded expectations. In all, the quarterfinals did not disappoint.

Euro 2004 gave us the debut of Cristiano Ronaldo on the international stage. After an impressive first season at Manchester United, the wonder kid was a starting winger for Portugal, who was hosting the championship at the ripe age of 19. What is so special about that is how he shined for the country in that tournament, surrounded by Portuguese legends like Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Pauletta, Fernando Couto, and Nuno Gomes; all players who played for Portugal’s “Golden Generation.”

That amazingly talented team never lived up to the hype and underachieved, but Ronaldo left his nation with hope for the future. As the greats retired, Ronaldo was to fill the voids, and he never really did on the International level. With subpar performances in two World Cups and one Euro, scoring only three goals in three tournaments, Ronaldo was disappointing. Things are finally looking up for the star.

After being given no chance to advance from the group stage in this tournament, Portugal is now in the semifinals, due in large part to the form of Ronaldo. Having scored three goals in the past two matches, Ronaldo has been a man on a mission leading the Portuguese deep into Euro 2012. So far Portugal has a knack for sitting back and feeling out the first 20 minutes of a game. It seems as if they pace themselves to figure out their opponent and once they achieve that, there is no stopping them. In their quarterfinal matchup verses the Czech Republic, they did just that.

Early on they looked vulnerable as the Czechs outpaced them and got a few chances on net. Then the tides shifted and the rest of the match was in Portugal’s favor. This Portugal side is hard to beat. They are a confident squad that is in form, and could make surprises in the remaining stages of the tournament. If they can stay composed, possess the ball, and keep sustaining high pressure on goal, things could get interesting in the first semifinal.

The second quarterfinal gave us Germany and Greece. The Germans cruised through the group stage and were lucky enough to be paired with arguably the weakest team to advance to the knockout stage. There was really no shot in my mind that Greece had a chance to beat this spectacular Germany team. Coach Joachim Low surprisingly switched up his side a bit for the quarterfinal, replacing forward Mario Gomez for veteran Miroslav Klose. He also switched up his wings and brought in Andre Schuerrle and Marco Reus to replace Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski. All three changes involve fantastic players, but I don’t understand why Low would change something that was not broken. Either way it payed off, as the Germans beat Greece by a final of 4-2.

Like Portugal, Germany has been pretty consistent in their habits also. From the opening whistle, Germany dominated the match. The Greek goal was under constant bombardment, but frustration started to kick in because the ball just would not go in the net. After their captain Phillip Lahm fired them in the lead, an early second half counter by Greece evened the score. Minutes later the Germans were up 3-1 and would eventually win. They have the amazing ability to never panic and its helping them to perform the best they have in decades. Lastly, the duo out performing everyone on Germany are the two midfielders from Madrid, Mesut Ozil and Sammi Khedira. Ozil plays like a classic playmaker, always with his head up looking for the sublime pass over the glory of a goal. Khedira on the other hand is a brute force in midfield with great vision and passing ability. They are the heart of this team now.

Our third quarterfinal gave us what was supposed to be a great fixture as neighbors France and Spain played against each other in a competitive match for the first time since World Cup 2006. The French upset Spain that day in a 3-1 victory in a highly entertaining game. This one was supposed to be no different, with Spain showcasing their free flowing and creative midfield and France with their quick counter and speed, everyone expected excitement. Instead this was probably the dullest match of the tournament so far. Spain again went out with a starting eleven that involved no forwards. I just do not understand what this was meant for. Spain is gifted with the best midfield to ever play the game that is designed and known for creating goals and setting up players, so why not put in some strikers to complete the puzzle? This has just been making Spain look lackluster and duller than in previous years. They are losing their charm.

At least their players are respectable however. The French again have crashed out of an international tournament and are not going to be remembered for their play on the field, but the immature antics of the players that represent their nation. A locker room bust up involving Samir Nasri and Hatim Ben Arfa after France’s loss to Sweden clearly took its toll on the team once again. What is it with these French players? It’s so frustrating seeing the French reputation dwindle and respect for their once great teams disappear. They are losing respect on the international stage more and more as years go on, and are a disrespect to the beautiful game in its entirety.

The last match of the quarterfinals gave us England vs. Italy. I must say, having been hard on Italy, they are shutting me up. I still won’t say they are anything near their great and respected sides of years passed, but they are getting results here in Euro 2012. For a match that was 0-0 for over 120 minutes, it was actually very entertaining. Early on, both sides showed a nose for goal which resulted in great saves from both keepers, especially England’s Joe Hart who was busier on the day. This kid is fantastic, and I truly believe he will be the end of England’s historic goalkeeper nightmares.

Staying with England real quick; they should walk out of this tournament with their heads held high. They played pretty well for having a makeshift squad, and things are looking bright for them. They are still young, have a great new manager, and should make it to Brazil 2014 unscathed.

As for Italy, one thing that has been evident is how much class Andrea Pirlo has and displays on the pitch. He effortlessly jogs around the pitch, yet is always in position. His vision and creativity is bar none some of the best in the world. During the penalty shootout, when his country was losing and facing elimination, he stepped up to the spot and chipped the ball instead of using power or placement. The guts it takes to attempt that are off the charts. His play has inspired the Italians so far, giving hope back to their nation after dismal performances in tournaments since their ’06 glory.

Now the final four is set and they are both interesting match ups:

In our first semifinal we have an all Iberian affair with Spain vs. Portugal. This has the potential for a Hollywood type outcome. With Ronaldo on form and a confident Portugal squad playing a Spain team that is losing its mojo, this has upset written all over it. I’m going with the bold prediction that Portugal will advance past their neighbors. 2-1 Portugal

The second semifinal gives us a rematch of the 2006 World Cup semis with Germany vs. Italy.  As I have said all along, this Germany team is just too good. I had England beating Italy in their quarterfinal match up, but in the end it truly did not matter because the two were coming to a dead end verse Germany. I know I have been hard on Italy all tournament but this is almost certain to me. Arrivederci Azzurri. 3-1 Germany.

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