By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
For FOX Deportes
The matchups have been set in the semifinal round of Euro 2012 and if you picked Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal in your bracket, then I’ve got a bag full of $20’s here for you. Okay, I lied. While three of the four teams were popular picks of getting the the semifinal stage, seeing Portugal here seems as unfamiliar as it does seem right on time. This current cast of characters haven’t had as much success as their predecessors, but their ultimate test lays in front of them with Spain. Spain, being the defending European Cup champs, come in undefeated and laying waste to all comers thus far in the tournament. If Portugal are to win on Wednesday, they’ll need a heroic effort from a player most likely to succeed, or the player most likely to…
The Player Most Likely To Do Stepovers In Front Of Your Girl, Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo seems like the type that if he saw your woman, and coveted her, he would try to do things to try and impress her. Personally, I’d envision him pulling out a soccer ball and doing stepovers in front of your chick. It would mesmerize her, make her hesitate, and in a moment’s notice your woman would be gone forever.
Unfortunately for Ronaldo, his Portugal side is going to face a Spain team that’s only given up one goal for the entire tournament. Yes, the argument could be made that Spain hasn’t faced anyone as creative as Ronaldo and hasn’t really been challenged since their opening contest versus Italy. However, Spain’s going to score, that’s a given. Can Portugal keep up to trade blows with La Furia Roja? Maybe Ronaldo will have to score two or three, or maybe Ronaldo will have to facilitate or be a decoy. Regardless, Ronaldo will need to be motivated and be locked in to give Portugal any shot.
The Player Most Likely To Never Fade To Black, Gianluigi Buffon: If you ever had any doubt on who the best goalie in the world was, then you need not do anything else other than watch Sunday’s contest between England and Italy. Broken down plays, long strikes and everything in between never found net for England. When the game went to penalties, Buffon made two huge saves to secure the victory and put Italy into the semifinals. Clutch performance indeed for a 34-year old goalie.
Some might favor Iker Casillas or Wojciech Szczesny, to which I’d be happy to hear your argument. However, what’s indisputable is the level of elite consistency in which Buffon has performed. Italy’s clash versus Germany will tactically stress the Azzuri’s back line, but another top notch performance from Buffon and Italy could be back in the Euro Finals.
The Person Who Probably Could Be A Chess Champion, Vincente del Bosque: Your country’s best striker is unavailable for the tournament. Your next best striker’s mental makeup is as shaky as an ‘88 Cutlass with the alignment out of wack. Your best defender is also out, and other defenders are frustrated in their current roles. Welcome to the life of Spain manager Vincente del Bosque. I imagine the man is well-skilled in chess, as he’s moved pieces around in an impressive fashion, while still figuring out how to optimize this group of talented players. FOXSoccer’sJamieTrecker elaborates after Spain’s 2-0 win over France:
(del Bosque) continues to manage his resources well. He utilized Cesc Fabregas for over an hour to ease the work rate required from Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, got another quiet, efficient game from Sergio Busquets and must have been pleased with the injection of pace that Pedro and Santi Cazorla offered late. Xabi Alonso scored both goals on a night when he collected his 100th cap. The first was a consummate header from a Jordi Alba cross in the 20th minute, the second an injury time penalty kick and Spain’s dominant midfield never let the French into the match. But for neutrals, it was a torturous 90 minutes to watch, as Spain employed its passing game at a snail’s pace, leaving France unable to do anything more than chase shadows.
They say that slow and steady can eventually win the race, and Spain’s play as of late resembles the style described. It might not make for watchable football, but if Spain wins the European championship back to back, then I imagine chess will begin to pick up with the youth.
The Player Most Likely To Always Like Being The Wingman, Mesut Ozil: Germany put up 4 goals on a Greece side that’s usually known for their stout defense. Two of those goals were facilitated by Mesut Ozil, as his well placed volleys to Phillipp Lahm and Miroslov Klose helped the German side advance to the semifinals. Ozil’s impact on his side has been subtle and emphatic, but the team plays with pace and confidence when Ozil’s got the ball on his foot.
Can Germany penetrate the great wall of Buffon? Can Germany control the middle third versus an Italian side that dominated the ball almost three times as much versus England on Sunday? Those two questions are best answered by Ozil, and if he proves to be the solution, then another trip to the final game will be in place for the Germans.