To be fair, to watch the English crash out on penalties once again, and France crash out without putting up a fight- was not unexpected. Three of the four teams in the semis began as favorites- and Italy only proved that there is nothing like controversy to fire them up.
Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy- four powerhouses of European football- make the final four.
Germany, arguably the favorites along with Spain, had it easy- putting on a sublime display of attacking football to eliminate the impressive Greeks. The final scoreline read 4-2, but it was the manner in which the Germans hit back after conceding their first goal, that could send shivers down opposition spines. After coming through the toughest group, the Germans were rewarded with the easiest of quarter-finals. They made no mistake, and even rested Gomez and Podolski. It worked.
Portugal, meanwhile, made heavy weather of eliminating the Czechs- an easy game which Ronaldo should have put away atleast four times. After hitting the bar twice, again, it came down to a late header by the superstar, that put the underperformers into yet another major semi-final.
Their punishment, though, will be facing a rampant Spanish team- who put up a clinical performance to dismiss docile France. Their defensive play, surprisingly, has been most impressive, even without the injured Puyol. Jordi Alba is having the tournament of his life, and Pique is hitting top form when it matters.
The England-Italy game was always expected to be a 0-0 stalemate, but it was far from boring. There were inspired periods by both teams in the first half, with Balotelli and De Rossi missing sitters. England, inexplicably, decided to sit back for the rest of the game and play in their own half- content with defending every single Italian attack that came their way. Extra Time was to not make a difference, with both sets of players exhausted by then- and England seemingly playing for penalties. A final statistic that read 25-4: the number of shots on goal. A team that made Italy look so aggressive, surely deserved to go out.
And so it happened, and England succumbed once again to the curse of spotkicks. They haven’t advanced past the quarters for 18 years now, and they show no signs of doing so either. Italy, meanwhile, should have won the game in 90 minutes, and they will have to play even harder against a madly-talented German side.
Spain v/s Portugal
After an Alonso-inspired win, Spain play a team that is almost as aggressive and ‘South-American’ as them. Portugal’s over-dependence on their captain, though, will be exposed in this game, and with Spain still struggling to have one of their strikers score- this will make for an interesting battle.
Prediction: Spain 1-2 Portugal
The tournament’s biggest upset, and a game that could shoot Ronaldo into the league of extraordinary gentlemen. The defending champions might find the heat too hard to handle, because they’ve just not been tested enough yet.
Germany v/s Italy
While Germany’s defense has been suspect over the last few games, expect them to keep a clean sheet in a game that will require Balotelli to really carry the team on his misfiring shoulders. If Italy are to stand any chance of winning the game, they will need the Pirlo-Balzaretti-Balotelli combination to fire. Germany, on the other hand, have enough players to fall back on if Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to have a barren time, with Gomez set to be back in the most exciting squad of Euro 2012.
Prediction: Germany 2-0 Italy
This could be the more straightforward semi-final, with Germany set to advance to yet another major final. Could this finally be their time?