After Spain’s penalty victory last night, we now know one half of the final line-up, with tonight’s semi-final set to confirm who stands between the Spanish and a historic hat-trick of international tournament wins. Will it be a rematch of the 2008 final or will it be a rematch from the group stage? The match last night didn’t exactly live up to expectations with just one shot on target in the 90 minutes, but Spain slowly moved into gear and were unfortunate not to emerge as victors in the 30 minutes of extra-time. Xabi Alonso’s miss hinted at a change in fortunes for Vicente Del Bosque’s team, but Iker Casillas calmed the nerves by saving Joao Moutinho’s effort immediately afterwards. Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Ramos all converted their spot kicks while Bruno Alves thumped his off the bar allowing Cesc Fàbregas to score the winner, and also deny Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to become a hero.
It remains to be seen whether the 120 minutes of football will take its toll on Spain, but equally they do have the advantage of an extra days rest compared to whoever wins tonight. Germany cruised past Greece to reach this stage, playing some impressive, fluid football along the way, whilst Italy had to endure 120 minutes against England before winning a penalty shoot-out. On current form you would have to assume that the Germans are the favourites, but they have always struggled against Italy. Whatever the case, tonight’s match promises to be a thriller, with intriguing tactical battles across the pitch. In midfield we have Andrea Pirlo vs Bastian Schweinsteiger, along with Daniele De Rossi vs Mesut Ozil, while Mario Balotelli vs Giorgio Chiellini could raise a few eyebrows.
Oh, and didn’t Jordi Alba look fantastic last night?