Spain better than Portugal on paper

With the Euro 2012 semifinals set to begin on Wednesday between Spain and Portugal, many wonder which of the two nations have the best tools on and off the field. Here is a break down of the Iberian matchup.
Iker Casillas of Spain in action during the match against Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 18 in Gdansk, Poland. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

With the Euro 2012 semifinals set to begin on Wednesday between Spain and Portugal, many wonder which of the two nations have the best tools on and off the field. Here is a break down of the Iberian matchup.

Offensive line

Spain: The Spaniards have had trouble deciding whether or not to include a striker in their system. Coach Vicente del Bosque is focusing more on crowding the midfield instead sending forwards to the field.

Portugal: Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo leads the Portuguese offence. The captain locates himself on the left side of the field and likes to clear defenders while cutting into his rival's area. The Real Madrid star is usually accompanied by speedy winger Nani from the left and striker Helder Postiga as the main striker. Postiga's injury forces coach Paulo Bento to give substitute Hugo Almeida a chance and, although it seems like a disadvantage, the trio could still be deadly. 

Advantage: Portugal


Spain: Arguably the best middle of the field in the world. Barcelona playmakers Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets is, without a doubt, the most technical group of players ever to play together. Add Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso and Manchester City's David Silva and the result is a 'tiki-taka' style of play almost impenetrable. 

Portugal: Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho are responsible for the transit of the ball in the middle for Portugal. Despite not being a world-class group like Spain's, these three do a great job in getting the ball to Ronaldo, as well as, jumping in attack when necessary.

Advantage: Spain 

Defensive line

Spain: Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid and Gerard Pique of Barcelona are rivals during the La Liga season, but complement each other in the national team as the two central defenders. Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa complete a tough line of defence.

Portugal: Pepe, Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira all play in Spanish clubs and know very well what to expect when facing their Spanish counterparts. The size and strength of the Portuguese defencemen favours them during corners and free kicks.

Advantage:  Even


Spain: Nobody has played more games with the Spanish national team than Iker Casillas. The captain led the team to the 2008 Euro title and 2010 World Cup. 'Saint Casillas' is the current IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) best goalkeeper.

Portugal: Sporting CP player Rui Patricio has demonstrated he is ready for the big stage. The 24-year-old keeper is solid in net and knows how to deal with the pressure of a tournament like the Euro Cup. However, his inexperience could be a slight disadvantage.

Advantage: Spain 


Spain: The reigning champion possesses a luxurious group of substitutes. Players like Jesus Navas, Juan Mata, Pedro and Fernando Llorente could be starters for any other team in the tournament. Del Bosque has an incredible list to pick from in case of an injury of tactical switch.

Portugal: Postiga's injury leaves Nelson Castro as the only substitute striker. However, Silvestre Varela and Nelson Oliveira are top-level options for the middle and going forward in attack, while Rolando is Bento's main player when trying to secure a win or give the team a boost in the back. Veterans Hugo Viana and Ricardo Costa give the Portuguese bench an important touch of experience.

Advantage: Spain