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Thursday, 28 June 2012 00:47

Portugal 0-0 Spain tactical breakdown

POR-ESP Line-ups_1.jpgIt is seldom easy to be content, let alone happy, after a defeat. Regardless of one's efforts, there is a distinct feeling that one was found wanting. On the other hand, Phil Jackson, the former NBA coach who led different teams to 11 titles, once said that there were defeats that clearly built a team - the ones where the players had given their all and surrendered their egos on behalf of something bigger than them. Tonight was one of those times for Portugal.
POR-ESP Line-ups_1.jpg
Starting elevens
Both coaches chose their favourite eleven, with one change on either side - the striker. While Paulo Bento's was a forced one, due to Hélder Postiga's injury, Vicente Del Bosque surprised everyone by choosing Negredo ahead of Torres and Fàbregas. The first few minutes let us see that the Spanish coach was going for someone a bit quicker when trying to lose his marker, in an attempt to force the Portuguese defence backwards. It was clear Spain meant business and were not willing to take Portugal lightly.

Furthermore, Del Bosque maintained Xavi higher up than usual - just like he had done against France. With that move, Spain were trying to keep Veloso from having too much time on the ball and, from an attacking point of view, give Xabi Alonso the space to spray long balls and turn Xavi into a no. 10 of sorts.

Xavi (yellow) played higher up for most of the match,
both while attacking and defending.
While Portugal did not pressure up high, they did try (and succeeded for the most part) to keep their opponents from calmly playing out from the back and make Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso play with their back towards Rui Patrício's goal. With Spain's usual lack of width - since Silva and Iniesta both drifted inward - and speed, there was not much danger of the back four being bypassed by balls over the top. Indeed, Bento's men often left Arbeloa to be marked directly by Coentrão, given that the Real Madrid full-back does not excel at bombing forward. It seemed as though Bento was setting the trap for the full-back to push forward, only to be caught in possession and vacate the space for Ronaldo.
Portugal did not just sit and wait.
On the contrary, they tried to trouble the Spanish build-up.
Besides, Moutinho, Meireles and Nani were doing a great job on making sure they denied Spain their preferred passing options through the middle. By leaving Arbeloa to Coentrão, Meireles and Moutinho were able to focus their attention on their opponent's favourite route and provide an out-ball for Ronaldo's escapades
Portugal's defensive approach neared perfection,
as much as possible against a side as good as Spain.
As expected, the Portuguese transitions often had Hugo Almeida as their main focal point, usually on Piqué's side, trying to drag the Barcelona centre-back out of position and open up space for Ronaldo, who had a clear goal of working the channel between Piqué and Arbeloa. Even though many of those long balls went astray, it clearly showed how Spain can be troubled by aerial duels - not because of the aerial duels themselves, but because it disrupts their well-drilled defensive positioning.

Portugal were also very good at killing the Spanish transitions into attack. Moutinho was phenomenal in that particular regardby always showing up to disturb the first pass and therefore preventing (usually) Xabi Alonso from picking the perfect pass to his team-mates. Even though there isn't actually any chalkboard that shows that, it is an invisible job that brought safety to Portugal's back four. With it, Portugal actually gave Spain a good run for their money and the possession stats at halftime clearly showed it: Portugal had 45% of time on the ball.

Even though there were not that many clear-cut chances, Portugal and Spain each had a few opportunities to finish off the game. In fact, as the match went on, it became ever clearer that whichever team scored first would most likely win it. Navas came on for Silva 60 minutes in to try to stretch the play and there were actually a few plays that seemed to show that that was the way to go - now Coentrão could not play tucked in and had to meet the Spanish winger on the outside, which opened up space between the left-back and Bruno Alves. However, the World champions were not too eager to take advantage of that
In spite of all the intensity,
this was not a game awash with scoring chances.
Despite taking the game to their opponents,
Portugal clearly need to improve their finishing.
Spain dominated all of extra time and could have even achieved victory, were it not for a huge save from Rui Patrício. The Selecção looked too tired to keep running after the ball and Spain just kept racking up minutes on the ball. With Nani exhausted and Oliveira instead of Almeida, Portugal found it very hard to get the first pass after getting the ball back just right, which in turn resulted in more Spanish possession.

All in all, this was a very interesting contest, tactically and otherwise. Even in defeat, Portugal can take solace in knowing they were worthy opponents to this superb Spanish team and that playing Spain (almost) eye to eye is not something that we see every day. Despite the loss, the Selecção have showed that Del Bosque's team are not an insurmountable obstacle and that Portugal will soon become a force to be reckoned with in their own right.

by Vasco Mota Pereira
Vasco runs http://aboladovasco.blogspot.com/ 
and http://combinationplay.blogspot.com/, two blogs exclusively about football.

Chalkboards created via the Stats Zone app, available for free in the App Store.

Comments (10)
10 Friday, 29 June 2012 12:00
Things have already started to change : Portugal are playing as a team agaisnt the best in the world. Portugal is getting the respect it deserves, and next in line is a major championship win for Portugal. Portugal is playing with HEART, FORCA PORTUGAL!!!!
Luck and Positives
9 Thursday, 28 June 2012 18:28
The Spain and Germany games were won by mostly luck. I'm not diminishing the wins by those 2 teams but they got lucky. A deflected cross turns into a goal for Germany while our penalty hits the post and misses and Spain's hits the post and goes in. Luck will be on our side in the World Cup.

Some positives we can take out of this Euro are
1. We played as a team and proved that Portugal isn't Ronaldo and 10 other players.
2. Ronaldo proved he steps up for his country when needed.
3. Our defence was outstanding and didn't pick up any suspensions as most expected.
4. Our midfield showed that it's just as good as Spains and Germanys
5. Nani had a good tournament although he didn't score
6. Our entire team worked hard and did better than expected in this tournament.
7. We pushed Spain to the limit and disrupted the tiki-taka without camping in the box.
8. We can trust Bento
9. We will improve and show the world we can win a major tournament in 2014!
Needed a little piece of magic
8 Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:53
I've been critical of Bento, especially since I didn't think he changed much from Queiroz. But he did get the most out of these guys. They played hard and gave it their all.
We were just missing a little piece of magic.

People still harp on Cristiano, which is ridiculous. This guy gave his all. Jealousy has to be the only explanation. When Cristiano's money and lifestyle is mentioned, I laugh. I wonder how many pundits would turn down that kind of money or even ask for it if they could get it. Most have changed jobs/companies for more money and opportunity but that seems to be ok. Lol.

Great piece of work PortuGoal. You too have been excellent in the Euros coverage.
7 Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:13
Basically Ronaldo ended the tournament as he started. He could not deliver the goods. Am I being harsh? Perhaps. But it comes with the territory when you want to be considered the number one player in the world. Expectations were high. Free kicks within scoring range (none on goal) and a two on one break away, end result = nada. Lets not forget, Varela saved Ronaldo' ass in the Denmark affair. My theory is that mental fatigue (from la liga, CL, etc...) took its toll on Ronaldo. The composed Ronaldo that I know would have (on the two on one break away) cut the ball and put it in the back of the net and not shoot twenty feet over it.

It was a tight game --- each team was evenly matched. Every Portuguese player gave it their max (besides cry baby Nani). Something or someone "special" could have made the difference. Now we all know how the story ends. Ronaldo will now be able to return to his multi-million dollar mansion to relax and convince himself that he's the greatest player in the world or contemplate what could have been. As for myself, Ronaldo is at this time a very good player. Great player? Perhaps in two years.
Portugal are out
6 Thursday, 28 June 2012 10:47
Yes Portugal were good on the night but couldn't finish off the European and World Champions, thats why Spain are what they are. In extra time Portugal look spent and very tired and Spain looked very strong and could have won it. Unlucky and good luck in the next tournament.
proud sooooooo proud
5 Thursday, 28 June 2012 10:21
what a team! What a display!
I'm proud of being a portuguese fan!another semi final left us with some tears! But we lost nothing!We forced our style of football against an overrated boring european football!

The future's gonna be brighter!We have two years to develop a superb number 10 as a playmaker and a classy #9 to help our wingers.

Come on N. Oliveira, Vaz Te, Wilson Eduardo,STEP UP and show your best, you'll write history...

Last year, our under 21 were playing the final of their world cup, we must count on some of our new assets, develop their talents and form the best squad that's gonna win our first trophy in the history of football there, in BRAZIL...We'll have the advantage of the language ;)...

Forca Portugal Forca Seleccaoooooo!!!!!
Very proud of our Selcção
4 Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:43
Says it all in the title. They put their hearts out, they worked their proverbial backsides off! From the singing of the anthem onwards you could tell they were there for business and boy are we proud of them!

I just hope Nelson Oliveira comes good in the years ahead as we need a decent striker to be less winger dependent.

P.S. How close was the keeper to that last penalty from sPain?
Obrigado Nossa Seleccao!!! Viva Portugal
3 Thursday, 28 June 2012 04:31
Thank you Team Portugal. It was A wonderful Euro 2012. As always Im left wanting more but feeling like we can still make it.

Feel the Glory Feel the Pain and be proud.

Team Portugal you did a great job! thank you and lets get ready for BRAZIL!!!


portugal soccer
2 Thursday, 28 June 2012 04:14
Today I saw the best portugal team that I've seen in a while. They really took it to spain. Ronaldo was awesome and spain had no answer for his explosiveness but I couldn't understand he didn't take the penalty.Nani was awsome too.I see really good future with this potugese team.
1 Thursday, 28 June 2012 01:58
Portugal played a great game and it's just to bad they have no luck! Just remember Portuguese fans Spain also had the same pain as Portugal never winning anything .eventually the luck has to change!!!!!!

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