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June 27, 2012
• Donbass Arena, Donets'k
Referee: C. Çakιr
• Attendance: 48000
Spain won 4 - 2 on penalties
HOW TENSE WAS THAT?! Spain showed nerves of steel to win that shootout, after Portugal pushed them all the way in normal and extra-time. Credit to the Spanish penalty takers for keeping their cool after Alonso missed their first spot-kick, particularly Ramos for his outrageous Panenka-style effort. Thanks for joining me for what has been a breathtaking few hours of football. Be sure to catch the second semi-final right here tomorrow evening, as Germany take on Italy to decide who gets to face Spain in the final on Sunday. For now, goodnight everyone.
SPAIN ARE THROUGH TO THE FINAL!! Their dream of three major tournaments in a row lives on as Cesc Fabregas fires home the winning penalty, after Bruno Alves had hit the crossbar for Portugal in the shootout. Cristiano Ronaldo, strangely, was down to take the fifth spot-kick for Portugal, but as it turns out, he didn't even get to take one, after Alves and Moutinho missed their penalties.
SPAIN WIN THE SEMI-FINAL ON PENALTIES!!! PORTUGAL 0-0 SPAIN (aet, 2-4 on penalties)
120' + 9'
Pen SO GoalCesc Fàbregas
2-4. FABREGAS SCORES!! In off the left-hand post. A fantastic strike.
120' + 8'
Pen SO MissBruno Alves
2-3. ALVES HITS THE BAR FOR PORTUGAL!! Advantage to Spain now...
120' + 7'
Pen SO GoalSergio Ramos
2-3. RAMOS SCORES WITH A PANENKA!! Pirlo eat your heart out. Ramos nonchalantly chips the ball into the back of the net.
120' + 6'
Pen SO GoalNani
2-2. NANI SCORES!! Casillas had no chance of saving that, it was smashed high into the roof of the net.
120' + 5'
Pen SO GoalPiqué
1-2. PIQUE SCORES!! Coolly dispatched into the bottom left corner by the Spain defender.
120' + 4'
Pen SO GoalPepe
1-1. PEPE SCORES!! The centre-back slots it calmly into the bottom left-hand corner.
120' + 3'
Pen SO GoalAndrés Iniesta Luján
0-1. ANDRES INIESTA SCORES!! Straight down the middle, Patricio dives right.
120' + 2'
Pen SO MissJoao Moutinho
0-0. JOAO MOUTINHO MISSES TOO!! Another fine stop, Casillas diving to his right.
120' + 1'
Pen SO MissXabi Alonso
0-0. XABI ALONSO MISSES. Fantastic save from Patricio low to his left.
Casillas wins the toss and chooses his side Spain to shoot first.
This one is going to penalties! 120 minutes could not separate these two sides!
Remarkable composure from Spain in their penalty area to play keep ball from Oliveira and Varela. That was training ground stuff, in the last few minutes of extra-time. Brilliant.
GREAT DEFENDING FROM PEPE!! The defender has put in a fine performance for Portugal tonight and he's not about to stop now, heading the ball away from Patricio's goal to safety after Jordi Alba had curled a cross in from the left.
THE OFFSIDE FLAG IS UP!! And that is a wrong decision from the linesman. Neither Iniesta or Fabregas was offside in that move, as they worked the ball on the edge of the Portugal box. Unsurprisingly, they are not happy with the referee's decision to pull play back.
Portugal have a free-kick and a chance to catch their breath as Fabregas climbs all over the back of Pereira as he looks to latch on to a Jesus Navas cross from the right.
CHANCE FOR PEDRO!! Fabregas nicks the ball from Pepe and flicks a pass into the run of Pedro, but he doesn't have the pace to get away from the Portugal defence, as Fabio Coentrao races across and clears the ball out for a throw-in.
Yellow CardXabi Alonso
Alonso catches Ronaldo with his studs on the halfway line as his Madrid team-mate looks to counter-attack. Cynical from Alonso, and deserving of the yellow card that the referee Cakir produces.
Portugal make their last change of the match, the pacy Silvestre Varela replacing Raul Meireles.
ANOTHER DECENT SAVE FROM PATRICIO!! Navas forces a fine save from the Portugal goalkeeper with a low right-foot effort after shimmying past the challenge of Alves. Patricio parries it, Pepe taps it, and then Patricio picks it up, yet despite the Spain team's protestations that it is a backpass the referee waves play on.
Iniesta nearly battles his way through on goal after riding a couple of challenges inside the Portugal half, but the last defender in his way is Pepe, and there is no way he's letting Iniesta past him on this occasion. The Portugal centre-back steps in front of his La Liga rival and slams the ball upfield and away from his own goal.
Down goes Ronaldo. That didn't look like a foul form Ramos. If anything Ronaldo fouls Ramos having seen the replay.
During the break Portugal finally managed to make that change, Custodio replacing Veloso in midfield.
Portugal get the second half of extra-time underway...
It's half-time in extra-time here. Portugal will be relieved to have a chance to collect their thoughts, no matter how brief the break is. Spain have looked rampant in their last five minutes, and only a fantastic Patricio save stopped Iniesta from breaking the deadlock.
SERGIO RAMOS STRIKES IT!! What an effort from the centre-back! Ramos sends a swirling effort towards Patricio's goal that swings just wide of the goalkeeper's right-hand post. A matter of inches...
Pedro and Alba are starting to combine brilliantly down the left, and Portugal don't quite now how to handle the troublesome duo. Pedro's latest foray results in a free-kick for his side 30 yards from Patricio's goal, to the left of centre. Portugal are on the ropes.
WHAT A SAVE!!! Rui Patricio's fingertips keep the score level, as Iniesta thinks he has scored after volleying the ball goalwards following some great play down the left from Pedro.
Spain have looked impotent from set pieces tonight, and this corner is no different as it is played short and then given away to Portugal's energetic backline.
Fabregas plays it short to Navas, who then tries to sling the ball into the box but it is deflected behind by Nani for another corner.
Portugal look like they are about to make their second change, as Custodio limbers up on the sidelines. In the mean-time Spain have a corner, that Fabregas looks set to take.
PIQUE STAT: He has faced Cristiano Ronaldo 14 times, and has won nine and lost just two of those games.
WONDERFUL CHALLENGE FROM PIQUE!! The Spain centre-back comes flying across to tackle Ronaldo on the left-hand edge of the Spain box as the Madrid man senses a goalscoring opportunity.
The introduction of Pedro has certainly prompted a greater sense of urgency from Del Bosque's side, and he creates another chance, setting up Iniesta for a shot on the edge of the Portugal penalty area. His strike is well-hit but is blocked by the body of Pepe, and Portugal can again clear the ball away.
Alonso lines up a free-kick 40 yards from goal for Spain, but again it is another disappointing delivery that is nonchalantly headed away by Bruno Alves.
La Roja work the ball nicely through Iniesta and Pedro on the left but the Portugal right-back Pereira does well to steal the ball from Iniesta and he looks to break into the area.
Sergio Busquets didn't like that challenge from Oliveira! The Portugal substitute seemed to catch the Spain midfielder in the back as they both went for the ball there.
Spain immediately break through Navas on the right but his cross is hacked away by Pepe.
Spain get us underway in the first period of extra-time here in Donetsk...
90' + 3'
Yellow CardMiguel Veloso
90' + 3'
The referee blows the whistle to mark the end of normal time. We've got another half an hour ahead of us guys!
90' + 3'
Miguel Veloso becomes the eighth player to receive a yellow card in this game after chopping Alba to the deck on the half-way line.
90' + 2'
That's a strange set piece! Alonso plays it right to the back of the Portugal box to Iniesta, who then turns away from goal and plays the ball all the way back to his defence. Very odd.
90' + 1'
Navas wins a late corner for Spain after hammering the ball behind off the legs of Fabio Coentrao.
The referee signals there will be three minutes of added time...
BIG CHANCE FOR RONALDO!! Portugal launch a lightning counter-attack following a poor free-kick from Xabi Alonso, with Meireles moving the ball to Ronaldo on the edge of the Spain box. He cannot quite get the ball under control though, and his hurried shot is high and wide of Casillas' goal.
Nani goes hurtling down the right wing but is stopped in his tracks by some fantastic defending from Jordi Alba. The Spain left-back sprints back to get between Nani and the ball, and manages to draw a foul from the Portuguese winger, and in doing so relieves the pressure on his side.
Yellow CardBruno Alves
Spain make their final change of the game, and it's a surprising one. Xavi trudges off the pitch at the Donbass Arena to be replaced by his Barcelona team-mate Pedro.
AND NOW ALVES IS IN THE BOOK! After hacking Fabregas down minutes ago, he repeats the offence, and the referee deems it one foul too many and promptly shows the Portugal defender a yellow card.
The ball goes over once more, Ronaldo opting to strike it with the inside of his right boot on this occasion, rather than his laces. That one never looked like troubling Casillas.
Ronaldo, take three...
Ronaldo strikes it straight into the wall, but the referee has spotted a handball from Arbeloa there, and Portugal have another free-kick closer to goal this time, while Arbeloa has picked up a booking for his troubles.
ANOTHER FREE-KICK FOR PORTUGAL (RONALDO)!! Xabi Alonso catches Ronaldo with a late challenge as the Portugal attacker tries to spray a pass out to Nani on the right. 30 yards from goal, Ronaldo to take...
Portugal make their first change of the evening, Hugo Almeida being brought off for Nelson Oliveira. Almeida may not have had his shooting boots on tonight but he certainly put in a shift for his side.
What a waste of a set piece from Miguel Veloso. Portugal win a free-kick on the right, and it is set up perfectly for the instep of Veloso's left foot, but instead of curling a dangerous inswinging cross into the Spain area, he puts it straight into Casillas' gloves.
The problem when Spain play Fabregas as a 'false nine' is that he fails to stay high up the pitch, and constantly drops in to midfield to try and gain possession. It's leaving Spain with nothing upfront, and they are therefore struggling to create chances in this second half.
Bruno Alves goes in late and heavy on Fabregas as the Barca player juggles the ball in his own half. That was brutal from Bruno, and fairly unnecessary with the ball 60 odd yards from the Portugal goal.
Portugal have a chance to work the Spain defence, but Moutinho's final pass to Nani is slightly underhit and away from his team-mate. If that had been into Nani's stride he would have been in on goal there. Small margins...
Jesus Navas is hugging the right touchline for Spain, and his team-mates could really do with giving him the ball. Iniesta chooses to go it alone, and promptly loses the ball to the tireless Moutinho.
THAT IS NOT FAR AWAY!! Ronaldo applies his trademark swerve to the ball but instead of flying into the back of the net, it goes a yard over the crossbar.
Guess who is taking this?
Arbeloa steps across Ronaldo as the Portuguese attacker strides forward, and that is a blatant foul. The referee blows his whistle and Portugal now have a free-kick about 30 yards from goal, just left of centre.
Jesus Navas gets his first chance on the ball, and he very nearly creates a goalscoring opportunity for Spain, racing past Pereira before cutting a ball back into the area. There is no Spain player running onto the pass though, and Pepe is able to hoof the ball away for Portugal.
XAVI SHOOTS STRAIGHT AT PATRICIO!! The Spanish midfielder drives forward towards the Portugal goal before unleashing a shot from 25 yards that flies straight into the arms of the waiting Patricio.
CLASSIC ALONSO! Spain win a free-kick 15 yards inside their own half and Alonso spots Patricio off his line and decides to fire a long-range effort towards goal, but the ball drifts harmlessly wide, much to the goalkeeper's relief.
Iniesta is screaming for the ball in acres of space on the near side but his team-mates fail to supply him with a pass, and promptly lose it to a neat challenge from Veloso.
Xavi sends an enticing cross into the box but Hugo Almeida, of all people, is there to head the ball away.
Yellow CardJoão Pereira
Pereira catches Fabregas after the Barcelona man did well to break down the left, and Spain now have a free-kick a couple of yards outside the Portugal penalty area.
The Spanish fans responded to Pepe's foul with chants of "asesino, asesino" (assassin, assassin). Very good.
OUCH!! No love lost between the two Madrid team-mates Pepe and Xabi Alonso, as the former catches the latter with a flying knee, and unsurprisingly is then shown a yellow card for his efforts. I struggle to comprehend what goes through Pepe's head sometimes. He is such a talented defender but he does love to lose his temper far too often.
Jesús Navas González
SPAIN ARE MAKING ANOTHER CHANGE! David SIlva is coming off for Jesus Navas. The Sevilla trickster has looked dangerous whenever he has been used so far in this tournament, and scored the winning goal in the crucial match against Croatia in the group stages.
Almeida has another chance to test Casillas wide on the left this time, but his second shot is not as good as his first, and goes high and wide of the Spain goal.
ALMEIDA SHOOTS OVER!! Portugal's centre-forward finds a pocket of space 30 yards from goal, and thinks to himself, 'I may as well have a go'. He strikes it well with his left-foot but the ball flies just over Iker Casillas' crossbar.
Portugal win another corner after some great play from Meireles. Nani whips it in to the Spain box but it is comfortably sidefooted away by the substitute Cesc Fabregas.
I feel sorry for Negredo though, he had little to work with tonight, the supply to him was well below the usual Spain standard. Let's see if Fabregas can have more of an impact! Let me know what you think about that substitution by posting your thoughts in the comment box to the right of this LIVE commentary!
Del Bosque makes his first change of the night, and it's no surprise to see Alvaro Negredo is the man coming off to be replaced by Cesc Fabregas, the scorer of two goals so far in this tournament.
Portugal have a corner of their own that Joao Moutinho fires into the near post, but Jordi Alba does well to play the ball off Nani and out for a Spain goal-kick.
Iniesta takes the corner short, but the set piece is wasted as Sergio Ramos strays into an offside position when the eventual cross is curled into the box, and Portugal are awarded a free-kick.
Xavi instigates some magic, switching the ball out to Arbeloa on the right who hangs a cross into the Portugal box that Pereira is forced to head behind to safety.
Portugal have picked up where they left off, pressing Spain high up the pitch, giving their defenders no time on the ball. Credit to the Spain defence though, they've kept the ball well in the last couple of minutes.
It will be interesting to see how long Vicente Del Bosque keeps these XI players on the pitch, he has got options on the bench. Fernando Llorente changed the game the last time these two sides met in a competitive fixture at the 2010 World Cup, with Spain eventually winning that match 1-0. I wonder if he might be introduced before too long...
A high foot from Nani as he looks to nick the ball from Alonso results in a free-kick for Spain, before Alba then goes flying into the back of Meireles. It's been a sloppy opening few minutes to the second half!
Portugal get this match back underway, immediately passing the ball back to their centre-backs.
The teams make their way back out onto the pitch at the Donbass Arena, with neither side making changes at half-time.
Meireles: Passes Completed- 22 Passing Accuracy: 90.9% Which would be impressive, if he wasn't being compared to Xavi... Spain may have been disappointing but Xavi is still having a stormer! Passes Completed- 41 Passing Accuracy- 97.6%.
I've checked our Portugal Expert, Stephen Gillett's claim that Meireles is out-passing Xavi, and here is the truth...
And now let's hear the thoughts of our Spain Expert, Ben Hayward: "You have to wonder if some fresh legs may help La Roja, however - remember they had two days less rest than Portugal. On the flip side, can the Portuguese maintain their first-half intensity for another 45 minutes or perhaps longer? For their part, Spain haven't played well but they must look to the positives: they have come close to scoring and are still very much in this despite a poor opening 45 minutes. If the first half was fascinating, the second period promises to be even more so."
Another interesting stat is that Portugal have crossed the ball nine times in the opening 45 minutes. They've attempted 116 crosses in the whole tournament now, with three of their six goal so far coming from crosses into the box. Why change a winning formula!
I said Portugal have forced Spain into making errors in this first half, and the statistics support that. Portugal have made more than twice as many interceptions as their opponents, stealing the ball 13 times compared to Spain's six.
Here is Portugal Expert, Stephen Gillett's take on that first half. "This is great stuff from Portugal. They look sharp, hungry and are increasingly dictating play. Moutinho's getting a foot in everywhere and Meireles looks like he's out-passing Xavi!" I'm not sure about that second claim Stephen, but your spot on with the first one, Moutinho has certainly put himself about this evening.
HALF-TIME: PORTUGAL 0-0 SPAIN. This game has not been what people will have expected! Portugal have hassled and harried Spain in this first half, and have forced them into both losing the ball and their cool on a number of occasions. The match remains goalless, with Iniesta coming close for Spain with a curling effort from 16 yards, and Ronaldo firing a shot just wide up the other end for Portugal.
45' + 1'
After a minute of added time the referee Cuneyt Cakir blows his whistle to mark the end of the first half.
Yellow CardFabio Coentrao
Alves has given away a couple of silly fouls so far, and that's the worst of the lot. He climbs all over the back of Negredo to gift Spain a free-kick. Xavi lofts it forward but Rui Patricio, who has had very little to do so far, comes off his line to grab the ball.
Pereira exchanges some angry words with Jordi Alba after the Spaniard runs into the back of him. Those two will soon be club team-mates next month at Valencia if Alba doesn't join Barcelona, so they may have to apologise to one another for that little spat!
Spain's fans are looking anxious in the stands as Arbeloa fails to latch on to a Negredo pass on the right. I'm sure they weren't expecting this match to pan out how it has, their side have struggled in possession.
Pepe sends a fine ball upfield from centre-back that Pique allows to bounce over his head, and it very nearly costs him and his side! Hugo Almeida is lurking just behind him and very nearly makes connection with the pass. Fortunately for Pique, and Spain, the ball just evades him and runs out for a goal-kick.
Spain break through Xavi, but Moutinho is hassling the Barcelona man, and eventually nicks the ball from him. He quickly passes the ball to Ronaldo, who is barged to the ground by Alvaro Arbeloa. Moutinho is having a brilliant game so far!
Yellow CardSergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos is shown a yellow card by the referee after cynically blocking Cristiano Ronaldo on the halfway line as Portugal looked to counter attack.
Here's some input from our Portugal Expert, Stephen Gillett. He's got to be happy with how his side have played so far. "All credit to Paulo Bento so far - the shape of his team looks spot on. They are forcing Spain to play passes they don't want to play and La Roja are coughing up possession on a regular basis. "
The crowd do not like it when Spain play the ball around at the back!! As the ball was passed between Pique, Ramos and Alba, the move was met with a cacophony of jeers and whistles from the fans.
Bruno Alves concedes a free-kick after jumping into the back of Negredo on the half-way line. Spain have a chance to work the ball forward from the set piece.
Both centre-forwards haven't really been at the races in this match so far, the game appears to be passing them by. Almeida's movement looks dogged for Portugal, while Negredo doesn't seem to be quite on the same wavelength as Xavi and Iniesta at the moment.
Nani is down, holding what appears to be his face. I've just seen a replay of the incident that sent him to the deck, and Jordi Alba did definitely catch him with an arm there.
Iniesta looks far-and-away Spain's most dangerous player tonight, as he has done all tournament. He dribbles down the left well on this occasion, before chipping a cross towards Negredo inside the Portugal box. Pepe rises to head the ball away before Negredo can make contact though.
Ronaldo's shot didn't quite hit the woodwork there, but don't be surprised if he does strike bar or post this evening. Portugal have hit the woodwork six times during this tournament, with Ronaldo responsible for four of those efforts.
CHANCE FOR RONALDO!! Moutinho floats a delightful ball out to the overlapping Pereira on the right, only for Portugal to temporarily lose possession. But Moutinho immediately wins it back, poking the ball through to Ronaldo who hammers a shot a couple of yards wide of Casillas' left-hand post.
INIESTA SHOOTS INCHES OVER!! Negredo holds the ball up brilliantly inside the Portugal penalty area for Spain, before firing a pass to Alonso on the edge of the box. He cannot find the space to shoot so slips the ball to Iniesta on the left-hand side of the penalty area. Iniesta cuts on to his right before curling an effort just over the crossbar. That was VERY close to breaking the deadlock.
FANTASTIC PRESSURE FROM PORTUGAL! Spain can't clear the ball away! Almeida, Ronaldo, and the Meireles all block Spanish efforts to hoof the ball away on the edge of Casillas' penalty area, before Almeida then has a penalty shout turned down by the referee Cuneyt Cakir.
Coeantrao has room on the left to whip a cross towards Almeida and Ronaldo in the penalty area, but he overhits it, and it goes straight to Jordi Alba, the Spain left-back.
CASILLAS STAT: If Spain beat Portugal tonight, Iker Casillas - on his 136th appearance for La Roja - will become the first player ever to win 100 international matches. He is currently on 99 wins, with 23 draws and 13 defeats.
Iker Casillas hoofs a free-kick straight out of play. Spain really haven't looked like their usual composed selves so far in this match.
Our Spain Expert, Ben Hayward, has been in touch with his views on the opening 20 odd minutes of play, "Portugal do indeed look up for this, like they never did when the two teams met at the World Cup in 2010. It's been a slow and sluggish start for Spain, meanwhile, and Alvaro Negredo has seen little of the ball. La Roja look dangerous when they do get forward, though. It's quite a game so far and both sides seem capable of scoring. The first blow could be crucial."
Spain like to pass it don't they? They have made over twice as many passes as Portugal (1476) at Euro 2012, with 2979. In this match they lead in passes completed 140-82.
FOUL ON NANI!! But not according to the referee! Sergio Ramos steps across Nani as he bursts down the right wing, causing the Portugal man to go flying to the deck, but the referee is having none of it, and waves play on. Nani can certainly feel hard done by there!
SPAIN AREN'T USED TO THIS!! Portugal are really taking the game to their opponents here in Donetsk, and the possession statistics are nowhere near as one-sided as they usually look when Spain play. Portugal 40%-60% Spain.
He curls the ball towards the penalty spot but Sergio Ramos is there for Spain to head the ball out and away from goal.
Ronaldo blasts it straight into the wall, but Spain cannot clear it, and Portugal win a corner just moments later. Moutinho stands over it...
ANOTHER BRILLIANT PLAY FROM RONALDO! Almeida shifts the ball to Ronaldo on the left and he immediately drives towards goal, pushing the ball between Pique and Arbeloa and drawing a foul as he looks to retain it. Free-kick to Portugal...
That was Ronaldo's first real chance to have an impact in this match, and he didn't disappoint. Portugal will look to launch that counter-attack through either him or Nani at every opportunity this evening.
FABULOUS FROM RONALDO!! Portugal counter-attack brilliantly down the left, Ronaldo shifting through the gears to evade the attention of Pique, before lifting a fine cross towards Hugo Almeida inside the penalty area. BUT THERE IS CASILLAS! The Spain goalkeeper rushes from his line to pluck the ball off the head of Almeida. Brilliant goalkeeping.
That's risky behaviour from the Spanish fans, after Denmark's fans did that in the group stages, Ronaldo went on to score three in two games, and look like a man possessed whilst doing so.
Here's a quick update from Martin Langer, who is at the Donbass Arena this evening, and it's not happy reading for Mr. Ronaldo. "And here they go! The Spanish fans chant "Messi, Messi" to Cristiano Ronaldo."
SCRAP THAT!! Iniesta ghosts into the box on the left before sliding the ball to Negredo, he cannot quite turn and get a shot away but the ball runs through to the on-rushing Arbeloa on the edge of the box. The right-back, who has never scored for Spain, fails to change that, sidefooting the ball over the crossbar.
Spain haven't really settled yet, and this is made clear by first Iniesta and then Silva miscontrolling the ball on the left-hand side.
Andres Iniesta flicks the ball brilliantly into the path of Jordi Alba, who looks to cut inside but is met by yet another Pepe tackle, allowing Portugal to clear the ball away to safety.
PEPE STAT: Gianluca Zambrotta (26) and Lilian Thuram (24) are the only defenders to have received more fouls than Pepe at the Euros. The Portugal centre-back has received 23.
GOOD TACKLE FROM PEPE!! A neat flowing move between Xavi, Silva and Negredo is brought to an abrupt end by the Portugal centre-back, who nips across to dispossess Negredo as the striker attempts to drive into the Portugal penalty area.
PORTUGAL WILL BE HAPPY WITH THIS START! Spain have barely touched the ball so far. It is not often you can say that!
Veloso hangs the resulting corner to the back post and forces Iker Casillas into tipping the ball over for another corner for Portugal. This one is easily caught by Casillas though.
A shoddy clearance from Alvaro Arbeloa in the right-back position goes straight to Miguel Veloso 30 yards from goal. He immediately tries to fire an effort at goal, but it is deflected behind for a corner by Gerard Pique.
AND WE ARE OFF... Spain get the match underway, Xabi Alonso quickly spraying a long high ball towards Alvaro Negredo but Pepe gets in front of the Sevilla striker to head the ball upfield.
The two captains Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo are speaking to the crowd ahead of the game kicking off about the importance of UEFA's Respect Diversity campaign. Good work lads.
Spain (4-3-3): Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Alonso; Iniesta, Negredo, Silva
Portugal (4-3-3): Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Moutinho, Veloso; Nani, Almeida, Ronaldo
A quick reminder of the two side's starting XIs this evening before the game kicks off:
The stadium is looking a bit too empty for my liking, let's hope those seats fill up in the next few minutes.
The players are making their way out onto the pitch at the Donbass Arena, Spain are wearing their traditional red kit this evening after Portugal opted to wear their white away kit. And now we have the anthems!
Spain's manager Vicente Del Bosque claimed his side must "try and deactivate" Ronaldo this evening, while also describing the match as "the most important game of our lives". The man charged with marking Ronaldo tonight, is one of his Madrid team-mates Alvaro Arbeloa, and though the Spanish press have clamoured for his removal from the starting XI, the right-back has actually had a pretty decent tournament so far. Yes, his passing isn't quite up to the standards of some of his team-mates, but he is disciplined in his positioning, and has made some vital interceptions and tackles during Spain's route to this semi-final.
The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) expects around 1,500 Portuguese supporters to watch tonight's semi-final against Spain in Donetsk. Sadly, legendary striker Eusébio will not be one of them as the former Portuguese international, who was hospitalised earlier this week due to illness, has just returned home in order to rest.
RONALDO-WATCH: The Portugal star has attempted about seven free-kicks from distance in the warm-up out on the pitch at the Donbass Arena, and not one of them has come close to being on-target...
Having said that, our Portugal Expert, Stephen Gillett has suggested that maybe Nani will outshine Ronaldo tonight. "While all Portugal's players have been singing their captain's praises during this tournament, deep down Nani must be more motivated than ever to grab some of the limelight for himself. The Manchester United winger is a world-class player in his own right, but has yet to develop the knack Ronaldo has for grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck. Nani has a 1-in-5 scoring rate for his country and after firing four blanks so far in Euro 2012, I fancy him to make an impact tonight."
It's difficult to look past Ronaldo though. What a fantastic couple of games he has had since being taunted by Denmark's fans with chants of "Messi! Messi!" in thr group stages. Three goals in two games, and four efforts coming back off the woodwork have helped drag Portugal to this semi-final, and if they do progress from this match, Ronaldo will no doubt have a big part to play.
IS THIS MATCH THE IBERIAN CLASICO? Barcelona's Spanish stars: Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes, Xavi line up against Madrid's Portuguese contingent of Ronaldo, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao. With those two fierce rivals dominating the two teams tonight, can a player from a different club prove the difference?? Negredo, perhaps?
PITCH UPDATE: Both sides agreed to water the pitch at the Donbass Arena before kick-off. The pitch will then be watered again at half-time. This eliminates the possibility of any post-match whining from either team, thank goodness.
STAT ATTACK: I mentioned earlier that Spain have won just two of the last 12 meetings between these two sides, well here's a good stat for you all, 14 of Spain's 16 wins against Portugal came before 1960. Wow.
The experts have had their say on each side's starting XI, now I want you all to have yours. Get in touch with me at any point in the game tonight, by posting your comments in the neat box to the right of this LIVE commentary. I hope you're all enjoying our shiny new Match Centre, I certainly am! So, to kick things off, who do you think will have the biggest impact on this game?
We even have another Portugal Expert getting involved! Stephen Gillett has offered his thoughts on Negredo's start from a Portuguese perspective. "Alvaro Negredo starting may throw Portugal's defensive preparations slightly awry, as they will have been preparing for this game in the belief that Del Bosque would go with either Plan A: Fabregas as a 'False 9' or Plan B: Fernando Torres. It will be a big call from Del Bosque should he play Negredo, but I see the merits in playing a young, talented, hungry striker. Torres at the moment is nowhere near the player he was and Spain look pretty playing with a 'False 9', but lack penetration. Negredo, still only 22, averages almost a goal a game with both Sevilla and Spain (6 in 11 appearances for La Roja) and will be a dangerous proposition for Portugal tonight should he start."
"And spare a thought for Raul. The former Real Madrid captain is 35 today and has supported La Roja with dignity and grace since being left out by Luis Aragones in late 2006. Still considered by many, including outgoing Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, to be the country's best-ever player, the striker has not once criticised Aragones or Del Bosque for his continued exclusion and deserves to be remembered, despite not actually participating in the side's most successful era on the pitch over the last four years."
"But spare a thought for Fernando Llorente: The Basque striker had a wonderful season with Athletic Bilbao, changed the game when Spain beat Portugal in the World Cup when he came off the bench and has been the fans' choice to come in up front in this competition. He is still waiitng for his chance."
Our Spain Expert, Ben Hayward, has weighed in with what he thinks of Del Bosque's starting XI, particularly the surprise inclusion of Negredo upfront. "Negredo has won every game he has played for Spain and scored six in 11 appearances. That is an excellent record and the Sevilla man surely deserves his opportunity tonight."
You guys are spoilt tonight, as not only will I be providing you with insight from Goal.com's Portugal and Spain experts, Luis Mira and Ben Hayward, we ALSO have two of our men at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, James Goldman and Martin Langer, and they will be sending through colourful updates and comments on the match as it progresses. You lucky, lucky people!
SPAIN TEAM NEWS: Hello Alvaro Negredo. Vicente Del Bosque, often accused of being too predictable, has named Negredo upfront ahead of Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres. The Sevilla striker has only played for a single minute in this tournament so far, coming on as a late substitute against Croatia during the group stage. Like Portugal, Spain make just the one change, and like Portugal, it is their central striker who is replaced.
PORTUGAL TEAM NEWS: Paulo Bento has named the same starting XI in each of Portugal's last six competitive games, but an injury to striker Helder Postiga in the quarter-final against Czech Republic means that that neat run comes to an end, with Hugo Almeida replacing the former Spurs man upfront. Elsewhere, Portugal are unchanged.
Spain (4-3-3): Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Alonso; Iniesta, Negredo, Silva
Portugal (4-3-3): Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Meireles, Moutinho, Veloso; Nani, Almeida, Ronaldo
The line-ups have been released by UEFA, and here they are, (SPOILER ALERT: Spain are playing a REAL NINE!):
The La Roja squad have got extra motivation to win their third major tournament in a row, after hearing the news earlier this week that their fellow countryman Miki Roque, a former team-mate of Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, had died of pelvic cancer aged just 23. May I take a moment to pass on the whole Goal.com team's deepest sympathies to both Roque's family and friends at such a difficult time. RIP Miki Roque.
Not since West Germany in the 1970s has a European team achieved a hat-trick of successive final appearances but Spain are just one win away from matching that feat following their triumphs at EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Vicente del Bosque's men have a more significant piece of history in their sights, though, as they bid to become the first team to retain the Henri Delaunay Cup.
Spain and Portugal have met on a football field at senior level 34 times, with La Roja winning just two of their last 12 encounters. One of those was a 1-0 win over Cristiano Ronaldo and co. in the second round of the 2010 World Cup, but the Portuguese gained revenge months later with a crushing 4-0 victory in Lisbon. I don't know if you guys remember, but Ronaldo was robbed of what would have been one of the best goals I've ever seen in that 4-0 drubbing, after Nani poked his team-mate's goal-bound shot over the line from an offside position. If you haven't seen it, it is definitely worth looking up on a website that has loads of readily available videos to watch...
Good evening and may I wish you a warm welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of this evening's European Championship semi-final between Portugal and Spain at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. My name is Charlie Scott and I'll be doing my best to keep you all informed and entertained over the course of this game.
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