WARSAW: Germany and defending champions Spain remain the favourites to fight out a repeat of their Euro 2008 final meeting as the present edition heads into the semi-final stage.
All theories will be put to the test as the Spaniards take on their Iberian rivals Portugal on Wednesday while Germany meet Italy on the following day.
Portugal will not be the same tame side that Spain beat 1-0 in the second round of the 2010 World Cup, instead a confident outfit under coach Paulo Bento. What has rounded the circle for them has been that Cristiano Ronaldo has finally surfaced and begun to bury the impression that he fails to perform well for the national side.
Spain disposed of France with the minimum of fuss. But, of more concern to coach Vicente Del Bosque is that his rivals will have had more time to rest and begin preparing for the semi-final.
“We are going to recuperate well but this 48 hours difference is a bit of a handicap,” said the Spanish tactician. “We suffered in the heat and that’s tough on players.”
Defeat against Italy would be a rude shock for Germany after they swept aside every team they have faced so far. Italy have shown an attacking philosophy at odds with their usual style at major finals and in 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo they perhaps have the player of the tournament so far, whose radar-like passing and vision is almost unparalleled.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.
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