Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spain - Portugal Euro Semis Blog

Ok, so I'm late to the party - it's about 25 minutes in. But nothing much has happened yet, with Spain controlling possession, but with only one real chance. Portugal has been tough defending, with Nani sparking here and  there. CRo is lurking, waiting for a chance. 

26 - Herrera and Nani team up for a nice run that puts Portugal in a semi-circle around the goal until Casillas catches a lofted poor cross. 

27 - Handball by Ramos? Might have been, but we're shown no replay - ooh, there it is. Yes, initial ball was taken on his chest, but the bounce does seem to hit his arm slightly. Hmmm. 

28 - Poor clearance by Portugal leads to an Iniesta curling shot - too high, but the game and chances are opening up. 

29 - Interesting that Spain don't have a great record versus Portugal. Some teams are just bogeys for others. 

30 - CR with a shot - wide, but that was the first flash of brilliance. His touch and control set up the chance, even with a defender tight to him.

32 - Spain seem a little sleepy. It's their great possession game that makes them seem a little boring, but it's also a slight tendency to get into a passing rut instead of creating chances. For example, the last chance from Iniesta was really a Portugal mistake. 

35 - Does anyone else think Iniesta should just pull a Jason Statham and shave his head clean? Or does the accountant look that hides a superstar athlete work for him? 

37 - Casillas isn't great with the ball at his feet. Of course, a keeper doesn't have to be, but sometimes there's so little to criticize about the Spanish team . . .

39 - Is anyone feeling less interested in supporting Spain given the reports and fines over racist chants? Just wondered.

43 - I checked out another commentary (the Guardian's, if you must know) and Paul Doyle over there seems to think Portugal is dominating the match and Spain are shaken. Eh, Portugal have looked lively at times, but the possession stats don't lie about who has controlled the ball. 

45 - I'll throw in that the English commentary on this match is dire. Macca has nothing insightful or interesting to offer. "Portugal are definitely in this." I'd switch to  ESPNDeportes, but my cable package doesn't have that. Ian Darke offers this as the game goes to the break at the half - "Bit of a standoff, really."  Well, it's 0-0, so, no kidding, Sherlock.
Halftime - I love how Ballack sounds like the SoccerTerminator. Twellman points out the obvious  - boring Spain is still controlling the match. This goes against the line Bob Ley is trying to sell, which is that Portugal is successfully scaring the scarlet jerseys off Spain. Eh, that's actually a nice image, but I'll save it for when Cesc gets on the field. 

47 - And we're back! Will Portugal's extra rest beat out Spain's deeper bench? 

49 - Portugal with a half-chance, but the cross is cut off, and then CRo can't get a shot off.

50 - Spain with a nice build up, gets and Arbeloa cross, which is out for a corner. That doesn't lead to much, though, as Portugal clear.  

53 - Now Portugal have a corner - they do poorly with it. Subs are warming up for both teams. 

55 - I'll venture to say that the rest deprivation of Spain is overrated. Frankly, with their passing game, they don't run as much as other teams, so their players consequently don't get as tired. 

57 - Another corner for Portugal - Nani is on it. It's still not great.  On the ensuing play, Almeida takes a crack from outside - too high. 

59 - CRo works the one-two with Almeida to get him into the box, but the angle is too severe and Almeida's shot hits side netting.  

60 - Ramos bumps CRo, who goes down in the box. It's not judged a foul, which is fair, but then Busquets gets a yellow for apparently arguing that CRo deserves a yellow for simulation. Eh. I'd be more worked up about the injustice if Busquets didn't have the tendency to be be whiny. 

61 - Jesus Navas is in for Silva.  

63 - Minutes later, a replay of the Ramos-CRo incident.  Eh, slight contact. No biggie. 

64 - Cesc down inside the box, but it's judged a FK outside. Leads to a corner for Spain. 

65 - Portugal defends it stoutly. Spain keep their composure and keep some pressure on the goal. 

67 - I love it when players clean the ball with their jerseys. With shirtless celebrations banned, it's the only chance for a glimpse of the abs.

68 - Xavi with a shot - easy save for the keep. Going the other way, Almeida with a shot - high again. Casillas didn't even have to move.

70 - J. Alba is getting lectured by Portugal players for going to ground after he was kicked - and though the contact was incidental, it's not like it didn't happen at all.

71 - Rui Patricio is spreading the team out before kicking the ball out of the box - the strategy works, CRo gets the ball and earns a FK as Arbeloa clangs into  him in his eagerness to get the ball away. Promising position for CRo.
73 - CRo rifles the shot over the bar. 

74 - Cesc and half the Spanish team seem to be playing up the "we've got no rest or sleep" angle by sporting unshaven scruff.

75. This whole Spain-isBarca-without-Messi line doesn't wash when it comes to Xabi, Casillas, Arbeloa, etc. It's a lazy spin on the game. 

76 - Portugal on the attack, but Nani is trying too hard not to be Almeida, and doesn't go for the goal when he gets the ball. His hesitation and attempt to get the ball to CRo costs the team the chance. Sometimes greed is good (TM Team Gekko).

78 - Darke is trying to play up the drama of a possible shootout. 

79 - Nani and Ramos clash over a header and Nani falls, but takes exception to Ramos' cleats coming to rest on his hip.   .

80 - Nelson Oliviera is in for Almeida.

82 - Navas had the ball for a bit and couldn't seem to decide what to do with it - even in the box. Finally, he tufts a little popped cross right to the grateful Portugal defenders. Rookie nerves, clearly.

83 - CRo earns a freekick. Then there's a handball, so he's even closer to goal now.

84 - CRo stands like B.Bradley, the A-frame intimidation and focus stance. It doesn't work. He kicks his freekick over the bar.

86 - Cesc gets kicked from behind. Yellow on Portugal.

87 - Pedro Rodriguez is on for Xavi.

88 - Iniesta on a run, but he can't read Cesc's mind like he does Messi, and so when he zigs right and passes left, Cesc has gone the other way and the ball blips out to empty grass. Portugal collect and go the other way.

90 - Spain have a FK in the final minute, but Portugal clear and head off quickly, CRo has the ball in the box and HE SHOOTS OVER. The ghost of Almeida is still on the field, clearly. Casillas didn't have to save.

92 - Spain have a corner. It's poor, finds no one, gets sent back to Casillas.

93 - A final yellow comes to Veloso for a late tackle on Alba. Macca yammers on about how he got the ball - and I'm confused, because Veloso didn't touch the ball - he slid into Alba after Alba already poked the ball away. Anyway, that's the end of regulation.

Extra, Extra Time! I want to say that Spain will win, but that would mean I agree with Macca, so I'll call the match for Portugal by default. Nani will win it, if he ever works his way out of CRo's shadow.

93 - I will give credit to Portugal for playing the match on their terms and forcing Spain to be more athletic, which isn't their style. Just now, for the past couple of minutes, they keep getting beaten on headers.

94 - Macca is now grousing about the quiet fans - who might actually just be intently watching the game.

95 - Iniesta is brought down by Moutinho. It's not too threatening, as freekicks go. Then it doesn't help that Alonso kicks it poorly.

95 - Spain with a couple of half-chances, but the pair of shots are cleared or blocked.

97 - Pique with a precise challenge to stop CRo. That was a gamble, going low to block the ball out, but it paid off.

99 - Pepe has been playing like a beast. Portugal have him to thank more than CRo, in this match, at least.

101 - Navas works the give-go with Arbeloa - gets a corner.

102 - Navas tries a shot - gets another corner.

103 - Iniesta tries to be heroic - put the ball through a wall of players. Nothing doing, and he sets up a counter for Portugal.

105 - Spain's young guns, Pedro and Navas, set up a play with some tricky dribbling and Iniesta benefits, but his soft, quick shot is saved by Patricio. Well done, Pat.

106 - Spain have  FK - Ramos lines it up and bullets it - so close, but no net.

108 - 2nd Extra Tiempo. Cesc miffs a pass and is left chasing the Portugal counter. Ramos saves the day by cutting off the cross to CRo.

109 - Cesc, looking for redemption, fires an outside shot. Ball pings off a defender, leaving an easy save for Patricio.

110 - Navas and Arbeloa combine well again - Navas shoots, Patricio saves, but the ball bounces free and Pepe herds it back into Patricio's arms. A few call for backpass violation, but the ref waves play on.

112 - Varela is coming on for Meireles.

114 - Alonso is booked for a late tackle on CRo.  Cesc frees Pedro with a great little pass, but the Portugal defenders swarm him before he can shoot. Corner. Comes to nada.

116 - Darke is on the "Spain will score" express now.

117 - Varela meanwhile, creates a bit of a threat for Portugal going the other way, but the Spanish defenders coolly pass their way out of danger. Then Spain ruin a nice chance of their own with a foolish offside.

118 - Spain earn another corner, courtesty of a hard-working Alba. It's taken short, though, and doesn't threaten.

119 - Pedro charging in the box, doing a nice little Messi imitation with tricky dribbling, until he's down and the ghost of Messi is poof - gone.

120 - Random shot of Fernando Torres looking anxious, but otherwise not affecting the game in any way from the sidelines.

Time is up! Penalties.

Ballack earns my heart forever by somehow getting in the line, something like, "with the nerves, the players are playing with themselves"  into his commentary.

I also love that Darke calls out Macca on PKs, "You didn't take too many of them, did you?"

CRo bumps fists with Casillas as the captains call who goes first. Spain will shoot.

Alonso versus Patricio. It's low to the right - and Patricio saves, diving to his left. 0-0

Casillas saves - going to his right! 0-0.

Iniesta fakes left, shoots right, scores! 1-0

Pepe the Beast is next. He lines far back, but  dinks the shot under the arm of Casillas. 1-1

Pique up now - it's a little weak, but well-placed to the left. 2-1

Wow - a switch, Alves started forward, but then gets called back. Nani comes up - nails it - high to the left corner. 2-2.

Ramos with a fake hard run gets Patricio diving. 3-2. 

Oh, man. Alves. Off the crossbar for Portugal! 3-2

Cesc wins it! Off the post and in. 4-2

CRo never got to shoot.

Oh, well, I guess Macca was right about something. Spain marches on to the Euro final. Clearly, rumors of their demise as a great team have been greatly exagerrated. Ballack goes off on CRo for not shooting earlier. Ley reminds the panel that Spain won. No one seems more suprised than he. Twellman gets in a little snide, "Yeah." all but biting back the "Just like I was saying, they were controlling the game."

The play of the day is Cesc's penalty - which I frankly don't think he intended to cut that close. Nice montage of past Euros show the current USA coach, Klinsmann, holding the trophy high. On PTI, Wilbon is tearing the coach apart for not putting CRo sooner in on the PKs. Kornheiser couldn't care less, and soon, they're on to baseball.

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