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Euro 2012: Semi-Final Preview - Come July 1st, it will be Italy vs Spain
While the surprising Italians will have their hands full with Germany on Thursday, the defending champs from Spain face Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese on Wednesday in Donetsk, to kickoff semi-final action at Euro 2012. The losers will certainly head home thinking of what might have been, while the winners advance to Sunday's championship final in Kyiv, in hopes of being crowned European Champions.
Edmonton - June 26, 2012 - With the opening semi-final match only hours away, there is no better time than the present to preview the final four match-ups of Euro 2012. While the surprising Italians will have their hands full with the undefeated Germans on Thursday morning/evening, the defending champs from Spain face Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese on Wednesday in Donetsk.
The losers will most certainly head home thinking of what might have been, while the winners advance to Sunday's championship final in Kyiv, in hopes of being crowned European Champions.
Spain vs Portugal (Donbass Arena - 06/27/12)
To suggest that Ronaldo has finally managed to step up his level of play for Portugal in a major tournament, would be a massive understatement. After continually falling short of delivering for the national side, the star striker has performed as if he were wearing a Manchester United or Real Madrid shirt and not the colours of his country. Make no mistake, he has single handedly carried this team into the semi-finals but will need to find a whole new gear for the Portuguese to have any shot at upsetting Spain.
Some have questioned Vicente del Bosque's decision to use a "False Nine" formation featuring Cesc Fabregas upfront, instead of a traditional strike like Fernando Torres, but the Spanish continue to win and with ease. They pass the ball around the pitch as if they are on the training ground and seem to be able to turn up their level of play whenever necessary. Many felt their backline could be an area of concern heading in but no one has been able to put a ball behind Iker Casillas since Antonio Di Natale manged the feat in their opener against Italy.
Portugal will have a puncher's chance but will be hard pressed to have the ball long enough to find their captain and hope he can slide a shot or two past his Madrid teammate. It will be interesting to see how the Portuguese star reacts to going up against many of his Real teammates and Barcelona rivals. It will not be an easy night for Cristiano but one in which he must stay composed in to have any hope whatsoever.
With Spain featuring a midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and David Silva they look to be almost impossible for any team in the world to beat....never mind Portugal. Prediction: Spain 3 Portugal 0
Germany vs Italy (National Stadium - 6/28/12)
Based on their performance leading up to Euro 2012 and throughout the opening stages of the competition, Germany have looked dominant and should have little trouble with Italy. That being said, this Italian team seems to be one of those special sides that has caught lightning in a bottle and can simply do no wrong. The Azzurri have made a habit of pulling out championships in thee situation before and they are more than capable of pulling off the upset against Germany.
While they are still led by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and the majestic play of one Andrea Pirlo, for the first time in years, Italy have a true scoring threat upfront in Mario Balotelli. While he has not shown an elite finishing level thus far, his presence alone allows the Azzurri to play a far more effective all around game. They no longer sit in their end and hope to win every match 1-0 or via the shootout but still remain solid in their own end and very dangerous on the counterattack.
Germany have looked lethal in every match but they will definitely be relying on the goal scoring prowess of striker Mario Gomez come Thursday. The Bayern Munich star has enjoyed a breakout campaign at both club and national side levels and will likely cause Buffon and his backline all sorts of problems.
Like Spain, their collection of midfield talent boarders on the ridiculous. With Sami Khedira, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger manning the middle of the pitch, life will be far more difficult on Pirlo to weave his magic for the Italians.
Germany will create chances but Cesare Prandelli's men will have more than enough opportunity to stay with the pre-tournament favourites. This one could turn out to be the match of the Euros and look for the Azzurri to get it done and keep their undefeated mark intact against the Germans. They have never lost to Germany in a World Cup or European Championship and that trend will continue at Euro 2012. Prediction: Italy 2 Germany 1
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