As we head into the semi-finals, Phil Kitromilides analyses the remaining sides with the impressive Germans still the team to back to emerge victorious on July 1And then there were four. Though England fans will be disappointed to have once again failed to progress to the latter stages of a major tournament, there can be no argument that this year's Euro 2012 semi-finalists are there on merit.
The stand-out side of the competition have hitherto been Germany, with Joachim Low crafting a team with an elegant balance of youth and experience and power and skill in addition to some much needed flair and functionality. The Germans are the only side to have won every match they have played at Euro 2012, and indeed are on a record-breaking run of 15 consecutive competitive victories.
They will take some stopping, and Bet365 price them as joint favourites for the title at 13/8 (2.62). Yet as has been seen on many occasions, the most attractive side does not always triumph in tournaments. This has not been the case in the last two major competitions, however, with the aesthetic brilliance of Spain seeing them crowned as European and world Champions in the last four years.
The mesmerising brilliance of those two teams has not quite been seen at this Championship, and although the Spanish have progressed to the last four with relatively little exertion required, they have not won as many admirers as their German counterparts. Where previously their tiki-taka style was admired as artistry, there have been murmurings that Spain's total territorial domination in matches is, heaven forbid, a tad boring.
A sacrilegious suggestion four years ago, but with the question of the centre forward position unresolved, La Roja have displayed a weakness which had seemed unthinkable. Nevertheless their exceptional talent and strength in depth means they remain a formidable challenge and share the mantle of favourites with the Germans, priced as they are also at 13/8 (2.62) to win an historic third consecutive major trophy.
The relative outsiders of the semi-finals are Italy and Portugal, with both of these proud footballing nations offered at 11/2 (6.50). Of the two it is perhaps Portugal who possess the tools to at least progress to the final and potentially cause an upset.
In Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese have one of the world's greatest players who has hit form on the international stage at just the right time. Their centre-back pairing of Pepe and Bruno Alves has also been arguably the most impressive of the tournament, and their rapid counter-attacking style could reap dividends in their semi-final versus Spain.
In reaching the semi-finals, Italy have achieved the minimum requirement of their demanding public and press but against a rampant Germany in the last four, the Azzurri will have quite a challenge to reach the final let alone lift the trophy.
|Germany to win at 13/8 (2.62) with Bet365
Portugal to win at 11/2 (6.50) Bet365
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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.