So here we go, we’ve had 12 days of blood and thunder football, sublime skills, shock results, new stars and the retirement of legends. Tonight sees the first of the Quarter Finals and what a way to start this section of the competition. There is no doubting over the last 10 years, Portugal’s stock has risen immensly and this tournament sees the team probably have their best chance of winning a major tournament. Whilst I appreciate they were the host nation last time round, sometimes the weight of expectation from your countrymen can bow down on a side and the pressure can disrupt the best of players.
There will be no excuses for Scolari’s men tonight: They know this game is there for the taking and a potential and probably semi-final meeting with the crafty Croatians. On paper, Portugal should rip Germany to pieces, be far too canny, too sly and too much pace for Germany to cope with. Yet, I’ve this nagging feeling borne out of the fact that I’ve seen this type of situation too many times with Germany. They always survive somehow; always get the last minute winner, the last minute goal line clearance, always the deflection bounces their way. Perhaps that’s down to watching them beat England time after time until 2000. Even in the Croatia game, when they were outplayed for long periods of the match, I still expected them to snatch a late equaliser. Surely it can’t happen again? Honestly, Portugal will either win this game by 3 or 4 or lose 1-0. It’s that type of game for me.
We’ve 4 wonderful quarter finals to look forward to, the football purist would love to see Portugal, Croatia, Holland and Spain go through. How would we feel on Monday morning if we were looking at Turkey, Germany, Italy and Russia as semi-finalists? I wouldn’t mind Turkey and Russia, both sides have really impressed me but my first 4 would conjure up two of the best semi final line ups the Euro’s have ever seen. Italy and Germany have been fortunate, very fortunate but that’s their football history and the tenacity that they show in international football. You can never write them off.
Scolari will be picking a full strength side tonight, full of flair and ability. Germany have fitness doubts over Frings and Podolski and manager Joachim Low banished to the stands for this game. Is this the game that Portugal finally come of age and dismantle one of the old guard of European giants? I think they will, but I’m still going to have that nagging doubt right to the final whistle but then again I thought that during USA 94 when Hristo Stoichkov destroyed them in a wonderful win for Bulgaria. The nagging will persisit though, unless of course the Portuguese go 3 up before half time, then I’ll only be slightly concerned until the final whistle. Portugal to win 3-1