Euro 2008 Semi Final Preview Spain v Russia
Tonight could give us one of the tournaments great games and after yesterday’s dramatic 5 goal thriller anything else will be a disappointment. It is impossible to gauge who can take the game tonight, such is Russia’s improvement after Spain spanked them in the opening game of Group D. Russia were absolutely phenomenal against Holland and could easily won by more than 3-1 whilst Spain played against a brick wall for 120 minutes against the dire Italians who deservedly lost the penalty shoot out. One thing is certain, this will be a flowing, open, attacking clash that should leave us football fans in awe of the skill on show.The obvious key man for Russia is Arshavin, who has seen his world stock go sky high and he looks likely to join Barcelona once the tournament finishes. His forward play has been astounding and he has shown just how important he is to Russia. They look a completely different side without him and the way he links all parts of the team is amazing.Quite what Russia would have done if he’d played in all four games is open to discussion, but his contribution since coming into the team against Sweden has certainly backed Hiddink’s decision to take him to the competition even with that suspension. Hiddink knew just how important to the team he is. To beat Russia, Spain simply have to stop him. Pavluchenko thrives on the service he received from Arshavin but his goal to chance ratio isn’t that good and Spain should be able to cope with him if they can stop the supply line. Spain have reverted to side that won their opening two games of the group and Torres and Villa will continue up front. Villa has been excellent and linked up really well with Torres and tonight that relationship will be crucial. Torres hasn’t really shown the form that propelled his first season at Anfield but he will be looking to add to his only goal so far that he scored against Sweden. Senna will also have an important part to play tonight and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Aragones use him as a man marker on Arshavin and break the play up to try and feed Iniesta and Xavi. Puyol and Marchena are two strong, passionate players who will be able to deal with any aerial balls that get pumped in, probably with the Russians looking to target Sergio Ramos and take advantage of his forward runs by getting the ball behind him into the space he vacates.The only negative about this match tonight is it should have been the final, why teams in the same group have to meet in the semi finals is daft. I can only assume they must have hoped Switzerland and Austria would get through, but they should have mixed the fixtures up much better after the group stage. I think whoever wins this tonight will beat Germany on Sunday and deservedly become European Champions.