My soccer 365 article that previews the big match tonight.
Prediction: Italy 1, Spain 0
My soccer 365 article that previews the big match tonight.
Prediction: Italy 1, Spain 0
Spain vs. Portugal on Wednesday
The first semifinal is a very interesting matchup between two geographical neighbors. A matchup to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo against several of his teammates and many of his rivals. Ronaldo plays at Real Madrid with playes such as Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso. He’s also familiar with several Barcelona players from tense clashes on the club level. This is also a rematch of the 2010 World Cup when Spain beat Portugal 1-0 in the round of 16. Expect Portugal to allow Spain to pass the ball in the midfield and hope that Ronaldo can provide a counterattack goal, just like he did against the Netherlands in group play. Spain is a tough team to score against and I think they will record another clean sheet.
Spain 1, Portugal 0
Germany vs. Italy on Thursday
Germany will be looking for revenge against Italy. It was the Italians that eliminated the Germans in the 2006 World Cup semifinals when the tournament took place in Germany. The pressure is on the Germans, who will be favorites to advance over Italy. Germany had two extra days of rest and has more depth. However, you can never count out the Italians especially with Andrea Pirlo as the anchor of the midfield. One of Germany’s question marks is their defense and Italy forward Mario Balotelli could be a tough matchup for the Germany back line. It will be interesting to see if Germany keeps the same lineup as the Greece match or go back to the starting 11 that was used in the group stage.
Germany 2, Italy 1 (After extra time)
England vs. Italy in Kiev
How they got here: England won Group D, despite all the injuries and pressure. The 1-1 draw against France was useful because England beat Sweden 3-2 and Ukraine 1-0. Italy drew their first two matches by a score of 1-1 to Spain and Croatia. Italy finished second in Group C when they beat Ireland 2-0.
England player to watch: Wayne Rooney- England are a different side when Rooney is in the lineup. He scored the goal against Ukraine and he makes fellow strikers Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll more effective. Italy is expected to be without Giorgio Chiellini so Rooney could play against a weaker Italian back line.
Italy player to watch: Andrea Pirlo- The creative playmaker will force England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to be more responsible defensively. This matchup in the center of the pitch could decide the outcome of the match.
England strategy: Some have said that this England team plays like Italy, and ironically even more Italian than the current Azzurri. England is a hard team to score on and make the most of chances in front of net. Instead of starting an offensive threat like Theo Walcott, England will play a safer option in James Milner who can back track on defense. That is the kind of game Roy Hodgson likes and if England wins, then fans won’t complain.
Italy strategy: Italy was terrific against Spain and really should’ve won against Croatia until they crumbled in the second half. Italy maybe played down to their competition against Ireland. The Italians will look to play very defensively without Chiellini, and hope Cassano and Balotelli can work well with Pirlo.
Prediction: England 1, Italy 0
Spain vs. France in Donetsk
How they got here: Spain won Group C in the waning minutes in their last group match. They started with a 1-1 draw against Italy when they didn’t start a natural striker. They manhandled Ireland 4-0 and scored very late to beat Croatia 1-0. France started well with a 1-1 draw against England and 2-0 win over Ukraine. France had a bit off a setback with a 2-0 defeat to Sweden to drop them to second place in Group D.
Spain player to watch: David Silva- The winger will be playing against club teammates Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy. When Silva is on form Spain plays better as a team. If he’s ineffective then the pressure is on Andreas Iniesta and Xavi to setup an inconsistent striker like Fernando Torres.
France player to watch: Yann M’Villa; The young central midfielder was healthy enough to start against Sweden. If he starts again, he has a chance to increase his transfer value and make a statement against Spain’s midfield. Arsenal is one of the teams that would love the services of the 21 year-old.
Spain strategy: Spain is always lauded for playing attractive soccer, but they were very sloppy against Croatia. Even in past major tournaments, they have played many 1-0 games and that’s when David Villa was in the lineup. Spain needs to give Torres some chances to make them a more dangerous threat against a shaky France defense.
France strategy: France is due for a bounce back game after a flat performance against Sweden. A good start might be important and scoring first would be vital. If France can force Spain to come from behind it will be hard to Spain to equalize.
Prediction: France 2, Spain 1
Germany vs. Greece in Gdansk
How they got here: Germany was the only team to obtain the maximum nine points in the group stage. They defeated Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark by one-goal margins. Greece went into their third game with only one point after a draw against Poland and loss to Czech Republic. Greece still had a chance to qualify with a win against Russia and the pulled off the upset to finish second in Group A.
Germany player to watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger- The holding midfielder has created a great duo with Sami Khedira to allow Mesut Ozil to be creative. Schweinsteiger will make sure Germany controls the possession against Greece and stop any Greek counterattacks.
Greece player to watch: Kyriakos Papadopoulos- The defender is playing against familiar players. Papadopoulos plays his club soccer for Schalke 04. A majority of Germany’s starting lineup played against Papadopoulos in the Bundesliga so he has the scouting report against Germany’s key players.
Germany strategy: Germany will play like they did in their 2-1 win over Denmark, but with a little more urgency. Germany can’t let Greece stay around because they could capitalize on one mistake.
Greece strategy: Unfortunately, Greece will be without inspirational captain Giorgos Karagounis because he accumulated two yellow cards in the three group matches. Greece will have to play the way they did against Russia and hope for the results they produced at Euro 2004.
Prediction: Germany 2, Greece 0
Czech Republic vs. Portugal in Warsaw
How they got here: Czech Republic lost 4-1 to Russia on the opening day of the tournament. The Czechs rebounded against Greece with a 2-1 victory. In the last day of group play, Czech Republic beat Poland 1-0, and topped Group A because Russia were shocked by Greece. Portugal also lost their first game, a 1-0 defeat against Germany. However, Portugal played well and finished second in Group B. The Portuguese took down Denmark 3-2 and Netherland 2-1 to survive the “Group of Death.”
Czech Republic player to watch: Vaclav Pilar- The winger has played well and was outstanding against Poland. He will be a key player as the tournament progresses and as Tomas Rosicky’s health remains a question mark.
Portugal player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo- Ronaldo “broke his duck“ against Netherlands with two goals that were calming taken. Ronaldo still has been criticized for not playing well in big games and he and some of his teammates have the Euro 2008 quarterfinal defeat against Germany fresh in their minds.
Czech Republic strategy: The Czechs played perfectly against Poland. They defended early and weathered the inevitable storm of Polish scoring chances. Late in the first half and the second half the Czechs were the team attacking and gave Poland a lot of troubles. A performance like that might be needed against Portugal.
Portugal strategy: Before the tournament I thought that Portugal would be a huge disappointment. I was proven wrong, as they have played strong in all three of their matches. Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao have stuck out as the best players. Portugal needs to tighten up defensively and Ronaldo and Nani will provide the opportunities.
Prediction: Portugal 2, Czech Republic 1 (After Extra Time)
Group D point totals going into today’s matches:
The scenarios are not as complex as some of the other groups, but if France and England both loss then it could be interesting. The permutations according to UEFA.com:
• England will be through with a draw. If they lose, they have to hope France lose by enough so that England at least end level with Les Bleus on goal difference and goals scored (as England have a superior coefficient, 33.563 to France’s 30.508).
• Ukraine will be through with a win and out with any other result.
• France will be through with a draw. If they lose, they would only be out if England lose but at the same time move level with them on either goal difference or goals scored.
• Sweden are out.
Ukraine vs. England
England got the win they needed against Sweden, but now it is back to business. A draw in Donetsk is needed and Theo Walcott is an injury doubt. Wayne Rooney will make his tournament debut for England. The injury news isn’t great out of the Ukraine camp, as Andriy Shevchenko is also an injury doubt. I think without Shevchenko at full fitness, England will win 1-0.
France vs. Sweden
Sweden is unlucky to not at least have a point. They have nothing to lose and could provide a tough test for France. I still think Karim Benzema and France will be too much for the Swedes, and Les Bleus will win 2-1.