From Donetsk, Ukraine. Spain (nicknamed "La Roja") for the second game in a row, looked beatable, but their tight team system and excellent defense, withstood Portugal. Spain for the third major tournament in a row (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012) will take the field in the championship match. If they win on Sunday, July 1st, they will be the first team ever to win 3 major tournaments in a row. Click Here to see ESPN highlights of the match. (note: if you just want to see penalty kicks, scroll to 2:20 of video)
It seemed that this may be Portugal and Christiano Ronaldos' day to taste the joy of making it to the final, but in the end they were left frustrated, and will likely replay numerous scoring chances in their minds.
The media has hyped Christiano Ronaldo, who in addition to excellent talent has a look that sells. What about Spain? How are they so good? Who is their star?
They have a team full of top players, but if you want to meet one of the best players in the world, click here to read NY Times article about Andreas Iniesta. He's a breath of fresh air; his amazing talent, team first attitude and genuine humility really are a great story. If he wasn't short and balding, more people in the U.S. would know him. Don't worry for him, though, around the world of soccer, he's a household name.
My match day field trip
I went to Amsterdam Tavern (a soccer pub in South St. Louis), to watch the Spain vs Portugal game. I was rooting for Spain, as were the majority of a very healthy midday crowd. As can be the case in semi final soccer matches, both teams came out conservatively. After the game passed the thirty minute mark with no goals and little scoring chances, both teams seemed bunkered down without opening up play. Sure enough, halftime, then sixty minutes and still all zeros. As the game pushed towards final 15 minutes, Christiano Ronaldo had a number of chances to win it for Portugal, but his finishing touch eluded him.
The game went into overtime. The first 15 minutes passed with no goals, and little attacking. The Amsterdam crowd grew nervous and restless. Finally in the second 15 minute overtime, Spain turned up the attack. They buzzed around Portugal’s penalty area and at various times people jumped out of their seats, expecting to see the ball crash against the goal net. Some bad bounces and some excellent Portugues goalkeeping kept it tied.
Penalty kicks! The cruelest way to decide such a game. The Spanish contingent (and myself) had a rough start as Portugal’s goalie made an excellent stop on Spain’s first shot. From then on, things went Spain’s way, and on Spain’s fifth (and final shot) Cesc Fabregas scored the winning goal. The Spanish team and the Amsterdam Tavern celebrated. Viva La Roja, see you in Kiev, Ukraine Sunday.
I attached a few pictures (of TV images) I took of the game at Amsterdam, but I didn’t put crowd shots in, because I didn't want anyone's boss to see them at a soccer pub on a Tuesday afternoon. Of course, if you were in Portugal or Spain, you and your boss would have both been at the pub!
Thursday: Germany vs. Italy, 1:30 to decide who will play Spain.
Championship Final: Sunday July 1st at 1:30pm.