By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
The match finished 0-0 after extra-time, but there were plenty of talking points to take from Wednesday’s match.
Negredo fails to take his chance
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque sprang a surprise by naming Alvaro Negredo in his first XI to face Portugal. The Sevilla striker had previously only played a minute of Spain’s Euro 2012 finals campaign and right from the start this looked like a strange decision. His first touch was poor throughout the first half – at one point Del Bosque even came out of his technical area to berate the striker. It didn’t come as a surprise then when Del Bosque subbed the forward less than 10 minutes after the second half began.
The decision to start Negredo ultimately did not cost Spain their place in the final, but it should result in some questions being asked internally by Fernando Torres, who must have expected to play ahead of Negredo.
It will be interesting to see what formation Del Bosque will choose to field in the final and whether there will be a place in the first XI for a recognised striker.
A scrappy affair
Considering the quality of the players out there on the pitch during Wednesday’s semi-final between Spain and Portugal, the actual match was a big let-down. In fact, it was a bit of a scrappy affair with Spain’s tempo too slow while the atmosphere at the stadium was even more flat.
Portugal pressed high up the pitch and made it more of a physical battle than Spain – who had two days less rest than the Portuguese – would have wanted. Portugal also used the ball quite well on the counter-attack and did create some decent chances during the game which on another day they might have put in the back of the net.
A lot will be made on why Cristiano Ronaldo did not take a penalty in the shoot-out which was bizarre, but also an argument saved for another day. Right now, I want to talk about the Portugal skipper’s overall performance against Spain which I felt was pretty good, all things considered.
Spain were always going to see more of the ball than Portugal, so Ronaldo needed to be efficient in possession to keep his side in with a chance at winning – and to be fair he did that. The Real Madrid star was very dangerous down both flanks but especially effective against Spain right-back Alvaro Arbeloa.
Now for the negative; Ronaldo was certainly guilty of a bad miss when he spurned a good chance late in the game when a clear shot on goal presented itself. Yes, the pass by Raul Meireles was slightly behind Ronaldo, but he really should have hit the target and at least tested Iker Casillas.
For me, Spain’s best player on the night against Portgual was their left-back Jordi Alba. He represented everything that was right about Spain. He was direct and took on the Portugal players whenever he had the ball, creating space and chances for his team-mates to try and find a goal. In contrast, Spain as a whole showed very little urgency during the match and on too many occasions were content to play short sideway balls to each other rather than take a more proactive approach to their attack. It was as if Spain were waiting for Portugal to make a defensive mistake.
Another Spain player who deserves credit for trying to force the issue more was substitute Jesus Navas. He was terrific when he came on in the 60th minute, and it was no wonder Spain looked their most dangerous (they dominated Portugal in extra-time) when Alba and Navas were both on the pitch for the defending champions.
It’s pretty obvious to me that Spain are missing first choice striker David Villa, who would have provided their midfielders the right avenue to combine with and create something more meaningful from all the possession they enjoyed throughout the game.
Just a final word for Portugal’s Rui Patricio because he deserves a mention. Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas will enjoy all the plaudits for emerging from Wednesday’s game as the victor from the penalty shoot-out, but what about Patricio’s save to deny Andres Iniesta a certain goal in extra-time and the effort to keep out Xabi Alonso’s spot-kick in the shoot-out? Superb stuff!