Euro Countdown: 4… 3… 2…

With the “Sell Thiago Silva for €50m: The Sequel” terrorizing Milan fans worldwide on a social networking or TV station or news site near you, the Euro Semifinals are a welcome diversion from the antics of a seemingly possessed Milan owner and his DS this summer.  Friday morning, we can go back to our summer of heartbreak, but today and tomorrow there should be some delicious football, with tomorrow’s match even featuring up to four of our Milan favorites. So sign out of Twitter, Facebook, news updates, etc. and tune in as four European powerhouses face off for a trophy and four years worth of bragging rights…

One of these teams will raise the coveted cup on Sunday...

Portugal vs. Spain
Being dubbed the “all-Iberian” semifinal for the geographical proximity of the two teams, I would like to see it named the “Euro Diving Competition™.” (That should be self-explanatory.) While Spain have impressive quality throughout their squad, they also have the pressure of being reigning Euro and World Champions. Portugal, on the other hand, have proven very strong, but their biggest strengths are in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, and Pepe who have dragged their team through up until this point. Ronaldo, particularly, had a slow start but seems hell-bent on proving that he can, in fact, come up big for Portugal when it counts.

The competition for the ref's attention will be fierce

I’m trying to remember if Spain played well the last match, as they literally lulled me to sleep vs. France. And yet, they still got 2 goals to get here, so how they played is not important. The big question is, will they water the pitch? If so, Spain consider themselves invincible. But Portugal are not going to roll over, they are hungry for a title and don’t have the weight of the reigning trophies on their shoulders. (And they are less likely to make up excuses about the moisture level of the pitch.)

My prediction? The ref will determine this one. If he believes their diving, Spain may have the advantage. But if he calls it fair and square, Portugal could just take down the Spaniards. So if the ref calls it fair and square, then everyone wins. If not, football loses. I’m going to say Divers 2, Football 0. (Please, football gods, let them prove me wrong. I could use something good in the realm of football today.)

Klose is personally ready to show Italy the door

Germany vs. Italy
This one has the potential to be the match of the tournament. In a rematch of the 2006 World Cup semifinal (also the best match of that tournament,) the Germans look poised to finally pull the monkey off their back. And if my good friend Jovan’s prediction comes true, they will also pummel the poor monkey, by scoring 3-4 goals. You see, Germany haven’t beaten Italy in a tournament… well, ever, or so I’ve heard.

Will they continue the magic or break the winning streak?

Of course they have every advantage in this one – a stronger team, more rest, fewer injuries. And yet they haven’t played so well as to be a bit overconfident, like in 2006, and they are not playing at home, either. If they are ever going to outclass their neighbors to the South, this would be a good time.

Italy on the other hand are doing exactly what they did in 2006: come in with scandals surrounding them, start slow, pick up pace, then eek through to make it to the semifinals. They have injury woes like 2006, I could actually write a whole post on the correlations. But not everything matches up. For example, in 2006, there were 5 Milan players on the squad, this time, there are only 4. The 5th, one Andrea Pirlo, is a Juventus player now. And while he had a great game against England, with a brilliant cucchiaio (spoon) PK to top it off, it seems he left his humility at Milan and has been trashtalking the Germans all week. (What the HELL happened to you, Pirlo? You were always the epitome of class at Milan.)

Pirlo poses in front of his ego

So if the over inflated egos of the Juventini and their focus on the Ballon d’Or instead of winning this match don’t help this squad self-destruct, injuries threaten to. Chiellini was injured earlier, but has been training with the squad again and hopes to be back. De Rossi and Abate were both injured vs. England, but are still doubtful, even if the physios and players are doing everything in their power to help them play on Thursday. The biggest concern is that Abate’s backup, Maggio, got himself suspended, so Italy are strapped at right back.

But if our four Milan players have anything to say in the matter, they will head into Thursday’s match humble but ready for battle. Cassano will almost undoubtedly lead the attack again. He has created more chances for teammates in open play than any other player in the tournament. Nocerino was absolutely brilliant coming on as a sub against England, now having played only 41 minutes in the tournament. He was the only one to actually find the back of the net in open play, even if it was offside, and his penalty was brilliant, so I hope Prandelli will find room in the lineup for him.

Nocerino is waiting for you, Germany
The beast is hungry.

Montolivo actually had a great game, if you can erase his penalty miss. Even though his father insists he is NOT a trequartista, he played brilliantly in something resembling that role vs. England, so perhaps we will see him there again. (Thiago Motta has also been battling injury, but likely to be ready to play again.) Abate is one tough cookie, so if there is any way back from his muscle injury by Thursday, he will find it. He also had a great performance in the last match.

Cassano. Bossing it for club and country.

Germany are the favorites, they are the stronger team, and there is no shame for Italy in losing this one. But Italy have a knack for pulling it off despite all odds, so I wouldn’t put it past them, either. It would be awesome to see our Rossoneri heroes in the finals representing their country. Forza Azzurri!

Portugal vs. Spain is on TODAY at 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)
This match will be on ESPN or ESPN3/ESPN app in the U.S.

Germany vs. Italy is on Thursday at 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)
This match will be on ESPN or ESPN3/ESPN app in the U.S.

This post inspired by the music of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom”

Euro Countdown: 4… 3… 2… Euro Countdown: 4… 3… 2… Reviewed by Elaine on 12:02 AM Rating: 5
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