Euro 2012: Another trophy for Spain's cabinet?
This is another superb match-up: Spain's team play against Portugal's brilliant individualist,Cristiano Ronaldo.
By no means does Ben Lyttleton assume that Spain and Germany are unbeatable as he wonders if there's any way Portugal or Italy might prevail.
So now we are down to the final four, and it comes as little surprise that the semi-finalists come from Groups B and C, the toughest two in the competition. While the draw was set up nicely for a Germany v Spain final, which is now just (2.08), Portugal and Italy will provide the favourites with their toughest tests so far.
That said, both Spain and Germany have shown weaknesses. It is testament to how fascinating the group stages were. Which is partly down to the 16-team format, which will be extended to 24 teams at Euro 2016, that both came within one goal of a surprise exit.
Spain were struggling to break down Croatia while Italy were beating Ireland in the final match in Group C. Luka Modric led a counter-attack and crossed for Ivan Perisic to head goalwards but Iker Casillas made a stunning stop. Had that gone in, and Croatia held on, Spain would have been out. Similarly, with Portugal beating Holland, and Germany drawing 1-1 with Denmark, Holger Badstuber looked to have held back Nicklas Bendtner in the box, and was fortunate not to have given away a penalty, which again would have changed the complexion of the group.
Of course, it's partly because they are both great teams that these things didn't happen and that they went on to win their respective matches with late goals. But there are weaknesses there, and at this stage of the competition, one mistake could prove decisive.
Germany looked comfortable for most of its 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, and yet coach Jogi Loew was adamant there is room for improvement in his side. His decision to shuffle his pack and replace Lukas Podolski, Thomas Mulller and top-scorer Mario Gomez with Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose worked, and Reus and Klose could keep their places against Italy.
But there were concerns over the form (and fitness) of Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose role as hub of the team has been overtaken by Sami Khedira so far. The German press did not expect to see Schweinsteiger play in the second-half against Greece, so poor was his first-half display.
Jerome Boateng, playing at right-back, also had a mixed game: decent going forward, there are worries he can be got at in defence, and he needlessly conceded a late penalty to Greece. Loew is a perfectionist, that's true, and Germany remains the only side to have won all its matches so far. They are @ Betfair odds of (1.92) to beat Italy and 2.76 to go on and lift the trophy.
With two days of extra rest, and without the sapping extra-time and penalty drama that might have drained the Italians, Germany's attacking power should be strong enough to reach Sunday's final even if their record against Italy, who beat them in the 1982 World Cup final (think Marco Tardelli's goal celebration) and the 2006 World Cup semi-final (when Fabio Grosso did the Tardelli) is poor. The match-up between Mesut Ozil, a player who has shown he can dominate international matches for 90 minutes, and Andrea Pirlo, promises to be an exciting one.
Spain are 2.0 to get past Portugal (4.6) in the other semi-final. This is another superb match-up: Spain's team play against Portugal's brilliant individualist, Cristiano Ronaldo; a coach who tinkers with his line-up every match, switching between Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres as his forward, against one who has named an unchanged team four matches running; and, perhaps significantly, a team for whom anything short of reaching the final would be failure, against one that is pleased to have got this far and now has nothing to lose.
Spain have come in for criticism in this tournament but they've won their last three matches, and without conceding a goal. When Spain won the World Cup, four 1-0 score-lines in the knock-out matches proved enough but for a team with such quality attacking players, it is somehow not good enough this time around.
"Maybe our gallant nature finds it in bad taste to attack someone who won't attack us," wrote Juanma Trueba in AS. "Or we are like a bunch of child prodigies who keep looking for new ways not to get bored."
There might be something in the last point, except for 'bored', swap the word,'beaten'. Spain has changed its approach this tournament, but the fact that no-one has yet found an answer shows that it's working. Sure, without David Villa or Pedro starting, there is less pace and danger in attack, but winning in a different way is still winning. Spain and Germany may not be as far ahead of the rest of the pack as we might have thought before the tournament, but they are still ahead.