Ronaldo out of spot-light in extra scratchy Iberian affair

Thu, Jun 28, 2012, 01:00

VIEW FROM THE COUCH:BY HALF-TIME Vicente del Bosque looked a worried man, but in fairness, he always does, even when his lads are winning Worlds Cups, European Championships and the like. But this was a bit of a test, his side had, said John Giles, been “very, very scratchy”, Portugal giving them a 45-minute itch.

The first half stats were even more troubling for Spain, they’d only completed 85 per cent of their passes, cataclysmic by their standards, although, to be honest about it, if our fellas had managed that figure they’d be naming streets after them as we speak.

At one point Xavi hoofed the ball aimlessly upfield and the gasps could be heard from Bogota to Ballyshannon, and then Iniesta overhit a pass that went out for a Portuguese throw and all you could do was tap the telly on its side to try and fix the picture.

“Spain have lost that X Factor, haven’t they?” said the incomparable Martin Keown in the BBC commentary box, by then having confidently predicted that Ronaldo would score, which would leave Spain needing to net twice, something, he said, they hadn’t managed to do in quite a while (possibly forgetting they’d done it last Saturday against France).

So, all very weird.

And nothing like what our panels for the evening had forecast, although the BBC team had, naturally enough, spent much of its preview of this European Championship semi-final talking about England – but sure, we had our own lengthy post-mortem too, so they were entitled.

(You can only assume Alan Shearer has been palling around with his old buddy Roy – Keane, not Hodgson – because he scoffed, in quite a guttural kind of way, at the notion that England left the tournament “with their heads held high”.

As for praise of the players for at least working hard, “if you just want 11 men to go out and work hard, I can find you 11 from Newcastle city centre who will work their socks off”.

But was the English Premier League not the best in the whole wide world?

“Yes,” he said, because of all the “foreigners”. Shearer talking sense?

Where were we?

Oh yes, Spain v Portugal.

“Are Spain boring?” asked Darragh Maloney in reference to the debate raging between tiki-taka fans and those who prefer Stoke v Bolton on a waterlogged pitch in November.

“No,” was the consensus, “Spain are one-dimensional, but they’re brilliant at the one dimension they have,” said Eamon Dunphy.

It was a view echoed over on the BBC, but they also believed that Portugal were one dimensional in that they only had one player. “Spain have Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Silva, Casillas; Portugal have, well, Ronaldo,” said Gary Lineker in a warm tribute to Patricio, Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Coentrao, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Almeida and the Nani lad.

Match time. “We’ve come half way to Siberia to see the pride of Iberia,” Lineker grinned, before we were up and running and Portugal set about proving that they’re, well, 11 dimensional.

Not a great deal happened, though, in a menacing-goal- threatening-manner, leaving George Hamilton sounding a little bored by the time the second half got under way. He wasn’t alone, he figured. “There’s the crowd amusing themselves with a Mexican wave, maybe the quality of the game is such that self-amusement should be the order of the day,” he said. There was silence for a brief moment from Ray Houghton, before he stepped in with the suggestion that they were only self-amusing because of “the lack of activity in the final third”. George let it go and, sensibly, moved on.

Ninety minutes up. “Well, that was rubbish, wasn’t it?” Lineker groaned, possibly kicking off another heated debate in a livingroom or two: ie “It’s like chess! It’s fantastic!” v “And when did you last bloody pay in to watch chess?”

Right then, extra-time. Spain woke up and looked like they might do that checkmatie thing on Portugal, but, no, penalties it was. A couple missed, a couple scored. Pique’s turn.

Ray: “I don’t know why sometimes you have a feeling . . . I’ve got a feeling . . .”

Pique scored.

George: “Did that correspond to your feeling?”

Ray: “No.”

See? A lottery.

Ramos? Cheeky divil.

And then Fabregas did his thing and Ronaldo never got to do his.

“Either he wanted the glory of taking the last one, or he bottled it,” said Eamon, sympathetically.

Whatever, on Spain go. Vicente del Bosque still looked worried, but maybe all chessmasters do?

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