Spain prevailed in the dreaded penalty shootout and the inquest will no doubt begin into the Portuguese thought process during those vital moments. First, Bruno Alves stepped up to take a penalty only to be called back to the center circle by Nani before hitting the crossbar in the next round. Perhaps even more shocking, Cristiano Ronaldo didn't even step up to the spot.
The rare events that ultimately led to the demise of the Portuguese will take away some of the credit from what was truly a valiant effort.
Unlike the majority of the teams that face the reigning World and European champions, Portugal set out to pressure high up the pitch and was duly rewarded. The question with any team that tries to employ this tactic against Spain is can it sustain that kind of work rate for 90 minutes? The answer is usually no, but it wasn’t until extra-time that Spain began to look like the world-beaters we have come to expect in every game.
Even when Spain was able to break the lines of Portuguese resistance, the Portugal defense recovered well. In fact, at halftime, Portugal had an an impressive 44% of the possession while Spain finished with its lowest pass completion rate of any half at Euro 2012 (even if it was still an astonishing 85.3%).
Throughout the match, Portugal had its chances. Ronaldo had two free kicks within his range and a golden opportunity right at the end of normal time to further cement his status as one of the greatest players of this generation, but he squandered all three opportunities.
If Portugal was to advance, it was always going to come from a set-piece or counter attack, but the quality was lacking in both departments.
Spain deserves the credit for its defense, which did well to crowd out Ronaldo and Nani as well as to keep the Portuguese attacks confined to the flanks. Both of Hugo Almeida’s shots came from tight angles because he was not given any space to operate down Route One.
As Portugal began to wilt, Spain found its rhythm in extra time, but a determined defense held on for penalties. Yet in the end, a strange sequence of events regarding the five shooters spectacularly tarnished 120 minutes of extraordinary work.
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