Portugal v Spain preview

June 27, 2012
Portugal v Spain preview

Will Portugal be able to break up Spain’s dominant passing game? More to the point, will they attempt to?

Selection

There will be few surprises in selection. Paulo Bento, having kept the same starting XI for his previous six competitive games, has been forced to bring in Hugo Almeida upfront in place of the injured Helder Postiga. Nelson Oliveira is another option, and some would argue that his greater mobility brings more to Portugal’s game. But he’s seen as a supersub by Bento, and will probably replace Almedia after around an hour, to give Portugal’s attack more pace.

Vicente Del Bosque’s only area of concern is in the same position. Having used Cesc Fabregas as a false nine in two games, and Fernando Torres as a proper nine in the other two, it’s a difficult decision to predict. Spain acted as if they didn’t know how to play with a false nine against Italy in their opening game (which is understandable, as Cesc Fabregas said they hadn’t trained in that system before) but were much improved against France. Read more »

Italy 0-0 England: Pirlo dictates the game

June 25, 2012
Italy 0-0 England: Pirlo dictates the game

Italy somehow failed to score despite dominating for 120 minutes, but won the resulting penalty shoot-out.

Cesare Prandelli brought in Riccardo Montolivo to play at the top of the diamond, because of concerns over Thiago Motta’s fitness.

Roy Hodgson made no changes from the XI that narrowly defeated Ukraine in the group stage.

Italy were the better side all over the pitch here – only finishing let them down. Read more »

England v Italy preview

June 24, 2012
England v Italy preview

After three one-sided quarter-finals, this should be a much tighter, tenser tactical battle.

Roy Hodgson will name a standard 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 formation, and although there’s a chance that a more direct winger could start on the flanks, it’s probable that he’ll stick with the starting XI that overcame Ukraine in the final group game.

Cesare Prandelli’s formation is much less clear. Having used a 3-5-2 for Italy’s opening two games against Spain and Croatia, he switched to a 4-4-2 diamond for the win over Ireland. Read more »

Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

June 24, 2012
Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

Laurent Blanc named an extremely reactive team – but France neither stifled Spain’s threat down the left, nor played their own game effectively.

Vicente del Bosque had hinted he would make changes from the team that beat Croatia, though it was still a surprise to see Cesc Fabregas return to the side in a false nine role, meaning Spain played the XI that started against Italy in the opening game – an experiment that didn’t go well.

Blanc’s XI was a huge surprise. He named Mathieu Debuchy on the right side of midfield, practically given a man-marking job on Jordi Alba. That meant Anthony Reveillere made his first start of the tournament at right-back. Florent Malouda was given a role in the centre of midfield, while Samir Nasri was only on the bench. France had come to contain rather than to attack.

But their performance was remarkably feeble. Their gameplan from the outset failed, and Blanc then found himself unable to react effectively at 1-0 down. Spain weren’t spectacular, but they were clearly the better side. Read more »