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Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward with four teams left

Jun 26, 2012, 10:00 PM EST

source: Getty Images

Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round

Spain’s the known quantity. While there’ve been qualms about how they’ve gone about business defense, they can win this competition using the same patient, conservative, possession-sensitive approach that has got them to the semis. The approach leaves two unresolved issues: a.) Whether del Bosque will make any tweaks and finally try to limit Spain’s exposure, and b.) whether Portugal can exploit whatever exposure del Bosque provides.

Expect Portugal to play their preferred game: reserved, reactionary, reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo. In the previous two rounds, we advocated Portugal be aggressive from the get-go. Not here. Over potentially 120 minutes, Ronaldo and Nani are likely to get the chances they need. They just need to convert and allow Portugal to sit deep, keeping Spain at arm’s length.

If Germany’s going to get their much sought after major competition victory over Italy, it’s hard to imagine a better time than Thursday. Italy’s still in a regroup mode, with their semifinal appearance doing wonders to restore the national team’s place in the world soccer pecking order. Germany is the better team, and with Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus proving viable options against slower defenses, Joachim Löw has multiple ways of breaking down the Italians.

Who knows how Italy plans on beating the Germans. On paper, the game looks like a mismatch. But Italy wasn’t expected to get a result from Spain, yet they did. They’ve also never trailed in the tournament, having gotten results form three of the world’s top eight teams along the way. Is Germany so special that they aren’t subject to the same hiccups that befell Spain, Croatia and England?

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

Taking a long term look, toward teams’ title hopes.

In:

1. Germany – To answer the question we just posed: Yes, Germany is so special that they won’t be subject to the same issues that left Spain, Croatia and England deadlocked with Italy. The attitude that made Croatia so successful in their second half against Italy? Germany plays like that from the opening kickoff.

2. Spain – Expect to see the real, full throttle Spain on Wednesday. To this point, they haven’t had to turn it on, and they may not need to turn it on to beat Portugal, either. But ahead of Sunday’s final, they need to find out if they still have that extra gear in them.

3. Portugal – And if they don’t, the Seleccao can pounce. The key will be pressing for chances from the start. The worst thing that can happen for Portugal is to see early success by sacrificing their attack. Perhaps that means keeping Nani deep while having their striker (likely to be Hugo Almeida) track back on Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo alone. That could get them into the second hour at 0-0, giving them only a sliver of the match to equalize after Spain gets their customary winning goal.

4. Italy – Whatever mistakes Germany make, the Italians more are capable of exploiting them than any team the favorites have faced to this point. And as good as the Germans are, mistake-free games haven’t been their thing. As many chances as Andrea Pirlo has generated for Mario Balotelli, it’s not hard to envision Mats Hummels paving the way for at least one great chance.

Out:

5. England – Though England showed well at Euro 2012, they leave the tournament with little to build on for Brazil 2014. Still, given where this team was at the point Fabio Capello resigned, this is a great result for Roy Hodgson and The FA.

6. Czech Republic – The players probably would have preferred Michal Bilek employ a more aggressive approach against Portugal, but after a bad opening night against Russia, the Czechs represented themselves well at Euro 2012.

7. Greece – Their quarterfinal loss wasn’t as close as the final score indicates, but they managed to knock off a good Russian team while give the Germans a momentary second half scare. This seventh place ranking speaks to the cliff teams like Russia, France, the Netherlands and Sweden plunged off, but given how little was expected of the Greeks, their fans should be elated with their shock quarterfinal appearance.

8. France – By the end of the tournament, their stock had fallen farther than Enron’s.

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
2. Andres Iniesta, Spain
3. Mesut Ozil, Germany
4. Sami Khedira, Germany
5. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
6. Fabio Coentrao, Portugal
7. Xavi Hernández, Spain
8. Pepe, Portugal
9. Joao Moutinho, Portugal
10. Mario Gomez, Germany

For the first time this competion, we have somebody who’s a clear frontrunner for the Player of the Tournament. And really – who would be upset with Andrea Pirlo winning this award?

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

  1. mianfr - Jun 26, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    Portugal plays Spain tough at least, and certainly doesn’t mind being thoroughly out-possessed.

    I don’t quite expect Portugal to win, but at least they shouldn’t lie down like France did.

    Likewise, I think Italy can at least play tough if they get a few fortunate breaks here and there. I’d say there’s a much lower chance that they beat the Germans, though, but it isn’t impossible.

    I think we can agree that we’re all rooting for anything but a Spain-Italy final, at least.

    • handsofsweed - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      No, we can’t.

  2. perrotta13 - Jun 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    “Who knows how Italy plans on beating the Germans”

    The key to this game will be the battle in central midfield. Germany has yet to face a mid-field trio as technically gifted, and tactically sound, as Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, and Claudio Marchisio.

    One of the main reasons why Germany has been so dominant thus far is because of the free rein enjoyed by Khedira, Schweinsteiger, and Ozil in the midfield (and in the attacking third, of course). The opponents Germany has faced thus far offered little to no resistance in the midfield (e.g. The Portuguese strength is their width with Ronaldo and Nani, not their central midfield; The Dutch featured an over-the-hill Van Bommel and equally overated Nigel De Jong in central midfield. The Danes featured a nondescript Christian Poulsen and a very average player in Jakob Poulsen; The Greeks – well, they didn’t offer much resistance on any part of the pitch).

    The aforementioned trio of Pirlo, De Rossi, and Marchisio won’t concede that much to the Germans. In fact, there will be stretches in tomorrow’s game where this trio will impose their will on the Germans. Moreover, Loew indicated yesterday in his press conference that he does not plan to man-mark Pirlo (as you wish, Mr. Loew). If that’s the case, and if De Rossi and Marchisio can be consistent ball winners (which they have a knack for doing) and keep Pirlo “clean”, then The Metronome (i.e. Pirlo) may have just the right amount of time and space to provide his trademarked golden passes (it will be up to the Azzurri strikers to capitalize, of course, and they have obviously struggled mightily in doing so at this point).

    We’ve all seen the sublime skill and class Pirlo has displayed so far at this tournament. De Rossi is one tough central midfielder (who is also supremely gifted technically), and Marchisio is quietly having a very good tournament (and he may be tasked with man-marking Khedira when Germany is on the attack and when Sami makes his runs into the box).

    Bottom line, there are no unbeatable teams in world soccer (no matter how good Spain and Germany’s talents appear on paper). While Germany and Spain certainly have more individual talent, talent does not always equate to having the best TEAM – see, the Dutch. That said, Italy is very, very technically skilled in it’s own right, and does not fear the Germans in the least (as undoubtedly many other national teams do).

    This game will be a very good, entertaining, and tightly contested game. Keep an eye out on the midfield battle, as this will likely be a key part of the game. Ozil, Khedira, and Schweinsteiger are defintiely world class, but, again, they will not have faced a midfield trio the likes of what Italy has to offer.

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