I was hoping that I wouldn’t be doing this, but with Tom unavailable and Conor developing a phobia of Spanish football, I am lumbered with the task of reviewing the Iberian derby. Much like many others, I find Spain incredibly tedious to watch, and while it is quite fascinating to see a team take command of the possession and play a smooth passing game, to review their games is actually quite difficult; you can’t make a commentary on passing exciting to read, and when done for an hour and a half at a time for around five or six years, the amount of times you feel the need to yawn is level with the Spanish pass completion rate.
They did actually find themselves having a shot at goal in the opening ten minutes, with Alvaro Arbeloa just inches over the crossbar with his effort from the edge of the area. We were also given an early taste of Cristiano Ronaldo’s delectable style; being tipped to be the star of the show this evening, he had a lot to live up to and his searching cross into the area for Nani looked dangerous, but Iker Casillas was equal to it. Further on in the half, he came close again with a strike that narrowly skipped the wrong side of the post, and it was beginning to look like Spain were a little shaken by the positive start that Portugal made in the opening half.
The second half started much the same as the first did, with Portugal looking the brighter of the two teams, and it was hardly surprising when after only 50 minutes, Alvaro Negredo was substituted for Spain for doing jack shit throughout his tenure on the field of play. The tactic they employed with the resulting substitution was most perplexing; the very rarely used 4-6-0 formation with the introduction of Cesc Fabregas much to the annoyance of Fernando Torres. Frustration seemed to be a key factor of the match, with outrageously ambitious efforts flying in from preposterous angles and general wastes of shots, most notably Xabi Alonso believing that he can score from his own half at least once a year.
I hate to make it sound like it was essentially ‘The Ronaldo Show’, but he came as close as anyone during the second half with a free kick that dipped too late to be on target, and despite his best efforts, he alone couldn’t manage to break the deadlock, and the game was getting ever closer to becoming the second consecutive 0-0 draw at the tournament after the drought it suffered at the beginning. He had a couple more opportunities from free kicks towards the end that went similarly, as did Spain, but the defence were solid enough to deal with it competently. And then, I thought, maybe, just maybe, the Portuguese would score with their impressive counter-attack, but Ronaldo saw his name in lights and spooned his strike into row Z.
END OF MATCH 0-0 START OF EXTRA TIME
Spain actually livened up. Andres Iniesta was denied by Rui Patricio in the most clear cut chance the game saw in its entirety. Sergio Ramos also came close with a piledriver of a free kick that was considerably less clear over the bar than Ronaldo’s efforts. Pedro couldn’t find his way past a solid Pepe early in the second half of extra time with a decent break, and failed to find the final incisive pass to create another golden chance, we were to have another penalty shootout. Hardly a riveting game at all.
SCORE AFTER EXTRA TIME 0-0 PENALTIES
Rui Patricio set the standard particularly high with an impeccable stop from Xabi Alonso’s penalty, but Iker Casillas was able to emulate his opposite number’s success from Joao Moutinho. Iniesta, Pepe and Gerard Pique all coolly slotted theirs home, and in a bizarre sequence of events, we saw Bruno Alves denied his chance to level the score by Nani, who also converted. Sergio Ramos exquisitely flaunted his Andrea Pirlo impression with a cheeky chip, and when Alves had the chance to actually take his, the pressure became too much and hammered his spot kick against the bar. It was all down to Cesc Fabregas to potentially provide the winner, and via the post, he did. Spain play for 15/120 minutes and get through, Portugal look impressive for most of the tournament and don’t, although you can question Ronaldo’s decision to go last in the pecking order for the shootout and not actually end up taking one.
SPAIN WIN 4-2 ON PENALTIES