Spain again surprised everyone with a Centre Forward that was not Torres, but ALVARO NEGREDO from the start. The tactic did not work which again highlights that the absence of David Villa has caused doubts as Coach Del Bosque alternates in a yes, no, yes no...story.
The battle turned out to be in the midfield not in the forward line as the game evolved into a body to body affair that frustrated both sides. Portugal was fantastic all first half with excellent pressure on the Spanish defensive line that halted their play making starting area. The result was little chances created for both sides, of which Spain had some opportunities but failed to convert as with Portugal but less.
CRISTIANO RONALDO was relatively neutralized the whole match as the action was happening away from his natural area in the forward line, although he did have three to four free-kicks occasions that flew close to the goal & another clear opportunity which he failed to transform.
Spain looked fatigued & in the second half Portugal was also feeling the pinch as their early efforts of pressure football was being felt on their game. Spain took off Negredo - sign of another failed starting strategy - to put on Cesc Fabregas & go back to the "false forward" plan. To give Spain freshness , Navas came on for Silva & later Pedro for Xavi who was exhausted. Both moves paid off as Spain took over proceedings.
|Ronaldo - Arbeloa|
As the second half went on Spain grew & Portugal dropped in intensity & as time got close to the finish both risked less & accepted tacitly that extra-time was inevitable.
It was during extra-time that Spain played their best Football & Pedro had two to three chances that were missed & could have settled things there & then. Portugal counter-attacked but Spain defended well. As mentioned Spain was dominating & creating all the chances nearly scoring the winner.
Portugal held out admirably & things then went into the lottery draw called the penalty shoot-out. It was all up for grabs as it was the fittest mentally that would go through along with lady luck that would play her part.
|Spain celebrate penalty victory over Portugal|
Spain shot first & Xabi Alonso missed, Pepe scored for Portugal, Iniesta scored for Spain & then Casillas stopped Moutinho, Pique scored for Spain, Nani for Portugal, Ramos with a cold blooded Penanka penalty & then Alves missed. History repeated itself as in 2008 when Spain had the quarter-final shoot-out with Italy & CESC FABREGAS was the elected to score the winner, as tonight which he scored to give Spain the victory & qualify his Nation into the Euro 2012 final. The talk tonight will however be why CRISTIANO RONALDO did not take a penalty shot earlier instead of being elected fifth - which did not come. A mystery that will fill tomorrows papers.
To conclude, Spanish defender JORDI ALBA was a star tonight along with SERGIO RAMOS who is really coming "off age" on the World Football stage in this competition.
Now to watch tomorrows second semi-final between Germany & Italy & see who will join Spain in next Sundays Final.