June 29th, 2010 by SeveSanchez
If I told you I had an Iberian Derby between the #2 and #3 ranked teams in the World Cup, would that be something you’d be interested in? Oh good, Spain and Portugal are squaring off in about 30 minutes. (Sidenote– I think Catalunya could also enter the Iberian totem discussion, but that’s a very “side” note). Wish I had more time to preview this bad boy, but fame-seeking Paraguay and Japan just had to prolong their 15 minutes. Here are the basics…
Spain are legit. Too legit, some might say. There isn’t one area in which their squad is weak; the only real deficiency they have is when they opt not to play wingers (Mata, Navas) and sometimes become a bit narrow. The fitness of Torres is also a concern, but they’ll have to roll the dice and hope he returns to his astonishing best– if only for a minute or two. Other than that– amazing team.
They lost their opening match to Switzerland in anomalous fashion– utterly dominating possession and shots but falling 1-0. Then they deservedly beat Honduras (2-0) and Chile (2-1) to win Group H on 6 points. Many people have become major critics of Spain in the past two weeks based solely upon the Swiss game, but if you overlook that result, Spain is still the best team in South Africa.
Portugal have been a bit stranger, finishing runner-up in Group G on 5 points. The drew their opening match with Ivory Coast and closing one with Brazil 0-0 and 0-0; but beat North Korea 7-0 in between. Not sure how to reconcile those results but I shall try.
Queiroz appears to be able to alter his side to play different gameplans. Against inferior opposition, they unleash the fury. Goals from anywhere and everywhere. But he can also put his team into lockdown mode at will, against the more potent opponents. If that’s anything to go by (assuming it’s even true at all), we could see some frustrating defense from the Portuguese. They’ll throw the clamps on Xavi & Co. while hoping Ronaldo can trick his way into a goal on the break. Oh joy.
We’ll do it live! As always, forgive the typos and hit refresh for updates to my running commentary:
- Del Bosque going with the least controversial lineup: Casillas with Ramos/Puyol/Pique/Capdevila in front of him. Iniesta/Alonso/Xavi/Busquets comprise the midfield. Villa and Torres lead the attack.
- This might be the first opponent that actually merits having Sergio Busquets out there.
- Pepe and Simao start for Portugal. No Deco.
- This has a Real Madrid-Barcelona flavor to it. Actually, it’s like the banana in any sort of tropical drink. It’s overpowering everything else.
- It’s underway. Nobody, not even Man U fans from a few years back (during the Queiroz/Ronaldo/Nani era), want Portugal to win this one, right?
- Torres with an early curler forces a great save from Eduardo. Much better start from the underperforming Liverpool striker.
- Villa replicates the Torres shot and Eduardo is Johnny-on-the-spot again.
- Coentrao uses a lot of body to bring Torres down in the box but the ref lets it go. Anywhere else on the pitch and it’s a foul.
- Villa rips one. Portugal under the blade but holding.
- Wild start to this game. Portugal are going with their North Korea gameplan.
- Peculiar corner sees Torres flick one towards the goal. Spain are going to bust all the training ground tricks out of the repertoire.
- I’m getting word Bruno Alves has just been cast in the 3rd season of Jersey Shore. Seriously, how can anyone be that tan?
- Ronaldo’s diving has begun. 8.75 for his first effort.
- We’re at the point in the tournament where my Villa-Torres theory begins to shift. It’s neither early nor late in the World Cup, so I can’t tell you who will be the one to score for Spain.
- Casillas makes an unconvincing save and has to clean up his own mess from bouncing over the line. Reina grits his teeth on the bench.
- Xavi almost slips a darting Villa through. Spain looking close to the first goal, living in the Portuguese half.
- Xavi and Robert Downey Jr. are cousins.
- Iniesta looks off. He’s giving the ball away way too easily.
- Another Ronaldo dive. 9.55. Good enthusiasm but lacked creativity.
- Portugal starting to revert to Ivory Coast/Brazil gameplan.
- Spain’s one touch passing is second to none. On cue, a giveaway leads to an Almeida header wide.
- Iniesta should come off at the break. I’ve never seen him play this awful. Silva, Mata, or Fabregas would do nicely.
- Casillas beats Simao in a footrace and saves Spain’s blushes. Portugal breaking with gusto.
- Strong tackle by Carvalho denies Torres a shot at goal.
- Halftime, 0-0.
- Spain moved the ball better and looked superior, but Portugal’s counterattacks had more potency about them.
- “Copenhagen?”… Incredibly, the Ellen Page commercials have the opposite effect as Knight and Day. I want to go see all of her movies now.
- Off the top of my head, here are the Real and Barca connections in the squads today…
- REAL MADRID: Pepe, Ronaldo, Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, Albiol, Arbeloa, Mata (youth player).
- BARCELONA: Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa (officially in two days), Valdes, Pedro, Fabregas (youth player), Deco (former player), Reina (former player), Simao (former player).
- Who did I miss? I’m sure there are some youth or former players somewhere in there…
- 2nd half underway.
- Torres trying to get past Coentrao too often. The left back is up for it, as he has been all tournament.
- Spain still pressing via Sergio Ramos.
- A Puyol deflection almost falls in the side netting. Casillas was very worried for a second. He didn’t know how he would explain that to his girl Sara Carbonero.
- Iniesta still playing like doo doo. I have a feeling he and the unfit Torres might be coming off soon.
- Danny on for Almeida. Llorente on for Torres.
- My Villa-Torres theory isn’t getting disproved today, at least.
- Llorente heads into Eduardo! He beasts the cross from Ramos but can’t find the corner. Seconds later, Villa curls one wide.
- GOAL SPAIN! 1-0 as some slick passing and a Xavi backheel releases Villa. His shot is blocked but he eats his own rebound and chips Eduardo.
- For the first time this tournament, Portugal have been scored upon.
- The Euro2008 Villa-Torres theory survives! Torres must start scoring in the next game though– assuming Spain can hold onto this.
- Spain playing with a major confidence boost since the goal.
- Eduardo pushes a left footed shot from Ramos just wide!
- Pepe off for Mendes, Liedson for Simao.
- Sergio Ramos thinks his side is the one that needs a goal, which naturally is great to watch.
- Villa has another strike from deep, forcing Eduardo into a dive. He wants the Golden Boot. My fantasy team offers its full support.
- There isn’t a player that understands the give and go better than David Villa. He’ll make a great Barca player.
- Costa and Villa chirping at each other. It isn’t over between them.
- 5 minutes left in regular time.
- Llorente sends a header just wide. Villa found his newest strike partner with ease.
- Pedro on, Villa off. Spain hoping to hold 1-0.
- COSTA SENT OFF! I told you it wasn’t over, and it is now for Costa. An elbow on Capdevila.
- The lump in Ronaldo’s throat looks even bigger as he misses the target badly.
- Capdevila saying some words I’ve heard my dad say in Spanish to Bruno Alves…
- Fulltime, 1-0 Spain!
Portugal got theirs today. Since they lost, I’m gonna put the negative spin on this one. The only team Portugal could score against was North Korea. Cristiano Ronaldo looked lost and tried to do too much, too often. If it wasn’t for a fortuitous bounce off his back, he would’ve finished the tournament with 0 goals. Queiroz wasted the attacking talents of his country by playing such a negative strategy for most of the World Cup. The only ones they have to blame for their exit are themselves.
And Spain are through! It’s a very deserved win for Del Bosque’s side, who will meet Paraguay in the quarterfinals. Villa was brilliant and the defense was composed; Xavi and Alonso inventive in the middle as always. Again, the only concern is the fitness of Torres, but 4 days rest could help in that department. Spain make it 7 of 8 group winners who advance.
Roberto Martinez is beaming and that’s my cue. Check for some analysis in the two down days until the QF starts Friday.Tags: Portugal, Spain