Within the space of four days, eight teams became four, and England were sent packing. Portugal, Germany, Spain and Italy will all feel that the title of European Champions is firmly within their reach, and that they are only two wins away from glory. The Portuguese overcame a tame Czech side, Germany’s second choice attack was still too much for the Greeks to handle, Spain showed their class in a win over Laurent Blanc’s France, and English hearts were once again broken after a penalty shootout against the victorious Italians. Four will become two over the next couple of days, and with the final on Sunday, the tournament seems to have flown by.
Portugal v Spain
The Portuguese have grown into the tournament, and with national treasure Cristiano Ronaldo finally firing on all cylinders, their fans have a genuine cause for optimism. Manchester United winger Nani seems to have put a poor season aside, and has reverted to the sort of impressive performances that he showed during 2010/11. They have threats on either wing, however their lack of creativity in midfield, and the absence of a world class striker, could prove their main issue against a resilient Spain side who have conceded only one goal so far. The Spaniards boast consistent performers in Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva, while Fabregas and Torres have also found form. The Portugal centre-backs, Pepe and Bruno Alves, will be under huge strain from Spain’s attacking players, while full-back Fabio Coentrao will need to discipline himself and limit his attacking freedom, to keep his defence out of trouble.
Germany v Italy
Joachim Loew’s men have shown attacking prowess so far, with 7 different players finding themselves on the score-sheet. They aren’t reliant on one player either, as they showed against Greece, where they gave some of their second choice attackers a chance to prove their worth. They took their chance and knocked 4 goals past a frail Greek back-line, with veteran striker Miroslav Klose showing that he still has the ability which saw him top-score during the 2006 World Cup. However, talismanic forward Mario Gomez is expected to regain his starting berth, and will provide the focal point for their attacks. The Italians have progressed to the semi-finals without playing their best football – could the best be still to come? Mario Balotelli has bags of ability, while experienced playmaker Andrea Pirlo will undoubtedly pull the strings for them in midfield. Their defensive policy may have to change however, as Greece were pieced apart by the Germans when they adopted a similar tactic.