It’s a great line-up for the semi-finals and this to me is what makes the European Championship the best international tournament, above the World Cup. You have four top-quality sides and games that could go either way. But I went with a Germany-Spain final at the start and I’m sticking with that.
One man could change that tonight and it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He will be the talking point and the main man for Portugal. The Spanish lads from Real Madrid will know all about him, but he will also know all about them too so it makes for a fascinating contest.
He will love this kind of stage and if he plays to the form he showed for Real and in the past couple of games for Portugal, he could make Spain suffer.
I love it when he’s playing in the role behind the frontman and roaming around. It’s so difficult for us, let alone defenders, to know where he’s going and what he’s going to do. He can be unstoppable when he’s running at defences.
When he’s stuck out on the left and doesn’t get the ball, that’s where Spain will want him. I don’t know if you can man mark him, but you can stop the ball getting to him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergio Ramos clatter him early on.
Spain might have their critics as they haven’t been brilliant and played with one striker, but the coach is probably thinking I’ve got six of the world’s best midfielders so let’s play the lot?
Italy v Germany
In the other game tomorrow, Italy’s biggest disadvantage against Germany is they will have had just three days rest after extra time and penalties against England while Germany have had a week to recover. That could take its toll.
But this Italian team have spirit that makes it hard to back against them. The main fact of that is they have a lot of players from Juventus in their side and they have just come off the back of their title win. I thought that would give them a big lift and it’s shown up more than the effects of the match-fixing issue.
Players like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo have stood out as you’d expect. For me, Pirlo has been just outstanding and they were far and away the better side against England.
I’d like to see if Germany make plans for Pirlo or just play to their own strengths. If they put him under pressure they could stop him, but if they don’t he will cause them trouble.
When it comes to passing, apart from Michel Platini, there’s few who have been better in that role. He improves as he gets older and if Italy are to reach the final, they will need Pirlo to pull the strings once again.
Ron Atkinson, former Manchester United manager, will be at the Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate for the Euro 2012 semi-finals. To find out more visit www.celebrateatthegate.com or call 04 444 5613.