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Euro 2012: Spain tops Portugal after Ronaldo-less PK round to return to final

SpainPK (Getty Images)

Spain’s reign as European champion is still alive, and Cristiano Ronaldo only sat and watched as Portugal’s tournament run came to an end.

After a scoreless 120 minutes, Spain outlasted Portugal on penalty kicks 4-2 at Donbass Stadium in Donetsk, Ukraine, with Ronaldo never getting the chance to take a penalty for Portugal.

Both goalkeepers — Portugal’s Rui Patricio and Spain’s Iker Casillas — came up with saves on the opening kicks of the shootout, robbing Xabi Alonso and Joao Moutinho, respectively. Andres Iniesta, Pepe, Gerard Pique and Nani traded makes before Sergio Ramos chipped down the center to give Spain a 3-2 edge. With Portugal needing a conversion to tie it up, Bruno Alves stepped forward, with Ronaldo presumably being saved for Portugal’s fifth kick. The centerback promptly blasted his chance off the crossbar, leaving Cesc Fabregas with a chance to win it.

The Barcelona attacker tucked his shot off the left post and in to leave Ronaldo standing helpless at midfield while sending Spain back to the final, where it will defend its title against either Germany or Italy.

The drama of the penalties overshadowed an otherwise evenly played game that lacked quality chances on both ends.

Both sides had threatening spells of possession throughout the first half, but that did not translate into opportunities on goal. Spain’s best opportunity of the opening half came in the ninth minute, when Iniesta squirted free inside the box and tried to cross. Bruno Alves failed to clear and the ball fell to a wide-open Alvaro Arbeloa, but his shot from 18 yards out was over the bar.

Portugal’s pressure disrupted Spain’s normal dominance of possession and reliance on short passing. Their inability to keep possession was almost costly as Moutinho won possession back deep in Spain’s half in the 31st minute. Ronaldo received a pass and sent a low shot skimming just wide of the post.

The second half saw Portugal with more of the chances but never really forced Iker Casillas into much action. Hugo Almeida wasted a 3-on-3 Portugal break by firing a long-distance shot well over the bar. Ronaldo was unable to connect a couple of free kicks before misfiring on Portugal’s best opportunity of the game. As the game approached extra time, Raul Meireles led a counterattack down the center, but his pass to find Ronaldo on his left was a bit behind the Real Madrid star, and his shot from 15 yards out went well over the bar.


What did you think of the match? Stunned that Ronaldo did not take a penalty for Portugal? Think Spain will repeat, or do you think it’s Germany or Italy’s year?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I hear what you are sayin, Jonny, but against an aweseom team like Germany Spain needs to come out smokin’ and keep great steady players like Fabregas, Xavi and Silva for later. It’s worked so far with Fabregas and I think it would work even better with Xavi and Silva.

  2. Well, on the one hand, yes, Germany is undefeated. On the other, they have shown weaknesses, barely beating Portugal, allowing Holland to score in the second half and looking shaky while holding out for the win, ditto with Denmark, the exact same scenario. And while German walloped Greece, the Greeks were able to score two goals, one on a magnificent counterattack that totally shocked Neuer and had him yanking on Samaras leg to hold him back.

    Neuer holding Samaras’s Leg

    If Greece can do that to Germany, that tells me they are vulnerable defensively and Italy and Spain are much more dangerous offensively than Greece and Italy and Spain are strong defensively, each potentially able to keep a clean sheet or hold Germany to one goal.

    All that said, Germany is no doubt a great team and appears headed for the championship. But we’ll see…

  3. Well, if there is a fixed order, then the entire blame is on Alves, who messed up from the start, and Nani should be applauded for restoring the order.

  4. I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned in this thread, but does anyone find it curious that all of a sudden Spain looked like a different team in the extra time. I’m a huge fan of the Spanish game and they looked somewhat lost due to the Portuguese pressure in normal time. Yet in the extra time, they looked more motivated to score and pressed it up. I don’t understand the strategy if this was done intentionally.

  5. Maybe it’s me being naive, but I thought you had to submit a list of penalty-takers prior to the shootout beginning and that you couldn’t change it?

    I thought Alves just went up when he thought he was supposed to. Either way, after he was recalled, there was absolutely no chance he was making his.

  6. I don’t. I think Germany is the better team. You can’t argue that they’ve played better soccer over the course of the tournament. They’re deeper and they can change their tactics to suit the opponent. Spain can’t do that, although they usually don’t have to.

  7. I agree with you on Nani. But how can you blame Ronaldo for not jumping the order, if you just blamed Nani for taking Alves’ turn? If Alves was unnerved by Nani jumping ahead of him, why would Ronaldo doing the same thing to Alves would calm him down rather than make it worse? If Ronaldo jumped his turn and then Alves missed his penalty, everybody would be blaming Ronaldo for unnerving his teammate.

  8. Well, this is highly debatable. In the last WC, 3 out 4 semifinalists were from Europe. In that tournament, Argentina lost to Germany 0-4, Brazil and Uruguay were eliminated by the Netherlands, the team that went 0-3 in this Euro. The remaining team you’ve mentioned are the second tier teams.

  9. Nope. Del Bosque realizes that you save what speed you have until later in the game when the other team has tired legs to maximize the impact.

  10. After a rather boring first 90 minutes, Spain were able to step up the pressure and even though they did not manage to score, I was sure Portugal would not be able to beat Spain on penalty kicks, because Portugal has never really been very efficient and their players often seem a bit too emotional (just look at Ronaldo) when it really matter.

    For exactly that reason, Ronaldo has never played a good game against Denmark, because the Danish players know exactly which “button” they need to push, to get him emotionally out of balance.

    After Denmark had lost to Germany in the group of death, the Danish players very much seemed to agree that Germany was by far the strongest team in this group. Germany are cool minded when it really matter and is at least a level better than Portugal, so I’m sure they are going to beat Italy and then a Spanish team that has not really impressed.

  11. This game convinces me that Xavi and Fabregas should not start in the final. Xavi was invisible during his whole time in the game and Fabregas did not really impress until his penalty kick, which actually he almost blew.

    I would like to see Del Bosque start Torres on top in the final (or, if not, then Llorente), with Pedro on left wing and Navas on right wing. After Pedro and Navas entered the game yesterday, Spain perked up and started actually having scoring opportunities, but they did not have a striker, like Torres, to pass to. And then Iniesta starting in the final as central attacking midfielder backed up by d-mids Alonso (i.e. if his back was not broken by Pepe) and Mister Actor (but very good d-mid) Busquets. And then Del Bosque has Xavi, Fabregas and Silva as potential subs. I really think that starting line-up would give Germany or Italy trouble.

  12. hey, Mike (hope you are sober by now :-). Ronaldo’s supporting cast yesterday against the EM 2012’s best defense was not very helpful. The crosses to Ronaldo into the box stank and there a couple times Ronaldo was open and Almeida, who not very good, shot way off target instead of passing to Ronaldo. Granted, Ronaldo had a three decent free-kick chances (his best shot bloked with Arebola’s hand ball) and he blew the big chance for immortality in the 88th minute. But that also was not a good pass, he had to break his stride and slow up and then get the shot off in about a quarter of a second before the great Spanish defense would be there to block his view of the goal. Was a goal shot possible? Yes. Extremely difficult? Yes.

    And, as noted, Spain has given up one goal (in the first game) this whole tournament. Spain defense is the best in the world. It is really not accurate to say that Ronaldo choked when going up against the defense with a so (offensive) supporting cast behind him (Portugal defense also is good). Plus, I think there were at least three strategic fouls on Ronaldo as he was headed with the ball toward the goal by his Madrid teammates who know how dangerous he is.

  13. Blah blah blah. No one had won a World Cup after losing their first game until Spain did and everyone wouldn’t shut up about that either. They are different teams than all of those historical teams you reference (minus a few players). Germany will be fine.

  14. As it turns out, I am the joker. Thanks for the knowledge Rich and Nick. I’ll stop pretending I’m a hockey expert.

  15. Thank you for writing this. I thought it was even…. probably Portugal with the better game and opportunities through the first 90′

  16. Cristiano played with heart but he skied everything when he had a look at goal and there were a two or three solid counters. He’s a striker and his job is to put shots on frame and net as many as those shots as possible.

    Watching on ESPN Deportes the announcers made a good point that a few counters needlessly went through Cristiano when other players were in better position to get a shot off or be playmakers. The Portuguese players were told to give it to Ronaldo or were too afraid to take it themselves.

  17. I agree Bruno Alves was iced… by his own team??!!! When it was finally his turn everyone knew he was going to shank it or have a squeaker blocked. He almost slotted the shot though by trying to impossibly place it in the upper upper upper 90.

    It is lame that the final result hinges on a seemingly small mistake but oh well, that’s how the game is played in 2012.

  18. I think it was a call from the sideline – though horribly ill timed. Why would you want to ice your own guy? It seems they didn’t have a plan in place for pk’s.

  19. So what was up with Nani taking the kick that Alves was walking up to take? Once a player starts walking toward the ball… man, even if that’s not the order, you let it go… That just wasn’t cool.

    I get Ronaldo wanting to take the last kick, but seriously that who Nani switcher thing clearly unnerved Alves… As captain Ronaldo should have had the presence of mind to go 4th and let Alves settle himself down…

    That was some nutty stuff, especially after 120 minutes of discipline that lack of organization and team thinking was so weird to see…

  20. In the hockey playoffs they do not have shootouts. They sometimes go 3-4 OTs. Eventually someone is so tired they mess up. Some people feel this is better that PKs.

  21. The Germans do not fare well against the Italians in tournament play. Even a seemingly average Italian team is tricky. You would think that a young and well-balanced fluid German side would dominate, but I wouldn’t put real money down on this one…


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