FROM 16, WE now have just four contenders remaining.
And tonight we have the first, and most anticipated, semi-final between two ancient rivals.
Is it the most important Iberian derby ever? Why not.
But whatever you do, just go out and enjoy it.
Portugal 0 – 0 Spain (Spain win 4-2 on penalties.)
19.26 – Evenin’ all. I know its been tough enduring life without live football this past three days, but I hope you haven’t done anything drastic like gnawing off your own arm or begun watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.
If you have, we hope you have sought the relevant medical attention.
All present and correct? Let’s crack on, then.
19.37 – The big team news is that Spain have selected Alvaro Negredo to play as a real life centre forward rather than Cesc Fabregas acting as a ‘false nine’.
19.46 – 10,9,8,7…. the annoying countdown continues until, finally, we have KICK OFF.
Commentators saying that Fabregas did not take part in warm up, so Negredo’s selection may not entirely be tactical.
19.52 – Spain have put together one or two nice passing movements, but so far; neither side can claim to be dominating.
And after Portugal’s strident start, things have calmed slightly and the game can now be described as ‘cagey’.
19.56 – A big, big chance for Arbeloa after Iniesta and Jordi Alba link beautifully on the left side of the box. Iniesta pulled a pass back to Negredo who got tangled and the ball broke to the full-back on the edge of the box.
He elected to connect with his instep rather than the laces and it whistled a foot over the bar.
20.05 – Here in TheScore.ie war room, we had just been thinking that the ground in Donetsk was less atmospheric than it could be. Lo and behold, a man who is actually there confirmed it.
20.11 – Ronaldo adds to his astronomical tally of shots on goal for the tournament with a 24th minute spin and volley.
He was about 25 yards out when he let fly with his left after Veloso’s back-heel. It sailed harmlessly over the bar.
20.15 – Spain are rattled.
Almeida has just raced 20 yards to close down Pique in his box and managed to do so, the Barca boy did manage to hurriedly clear at the second attempt, but Portugal got it back in the mixer and appealed (half-heartedly) for handball when Ramos clumsily dived to try and head a clearance. Instead, it hit him on the chest and then the underside of his chin.
20.17 – Yet, it takes all of 30 second for Iniesta to remind the world of why Spain are where they are. He cut in onto his right to shoot from 18 yards. It dropped inched the wrong side of the bar.
Good game, this. Spain are on the back foot… As I say that, Portugal steal possession 20 yards from goal and Ronaldo’s instant shot off his left hits the side-netting.
20.30 – The World Champions have just begun to get momentum swing their way, Hugo Almeida appears to drop from centre forward to defensive midfield when Portugal have to sit deep.
The Portuguese skipper relieved some of the pressure by drawing a foul and yellow card for his club-mate Sergio Ramos. Portugal, though, are overly-committed to the cross. Any time Coentrao reaches the final third, the ball is sent in with the hope that either Almeida or Ronaldo can make hay.
Spain, however, are giving away much less space than the Czech Republic did.
20.47 – For all Portugal’s relative dominance, they still have managed to get only 44% of possession.
They have managed two shots on target to Spain’s nil, and have committed two fewer fouls (seven) than those bastions of virtue, Spain (nine fouls).
But all those stats are just back-up, will we get a goal in the coming 45 minutes or will we get a second consecutive goalless draw and penalty shoot-out?
20.54 – Once again, the poor atmosphere in the Donbass Arena has made the opening exchanges seem to lack a little pizazz… or something.
We appear to be settling into a familiar pattern, with Spain getting their act together and stringing a couple of dozen passes together before Portugal win a free kick and urgently move onto the attack.
20.58 – Vicente del Bosque has had enough of Negredo. Cesc Fabregas is on the field as Spain decide that possession is their only hope.
21.01 – Oh dear, as testament to the lack of red-blooded Spain and Portugal fans in attendance, a Mexican wave has begun lapping gently around Donetsk. Fun?
21.08 – Pereira gleefully takes a yellow card for a body check on Fabregas rather than allow him chase Iniesta’s through-ball into the box. Two ensuing Spanish set-pieces come to nout.
55 minutes to penalties.
21.20 – 15 minutes from the end of regulation and Portugal are still being presented with openings, only to waste an overlap on the right thanks to Moutinho’s poor pass to Nani.
The Manchester United winger cut back attempting to make space, but could only drill into the midriff of Ramos.
21.24 – Both teams look unwilling to go for the jugular with 10 minutes on the clock. This game will peter out and be decided in OT.
Nelson Oliveira has been introduced for Portugal. A like for like swap for Hugo Almeida.
We hope Ewan got the box back on in time to see Portugal spurn a four-on-two counter attack.
The ball is moved to the right man, Ronaldo on the left, but it’s a ile behind him and the entire momentum of the attack is lost before Ronaldo makes space to shoot (waywardly) off his left boot.
Spain will see out the remainder of normal time on the attack.
21.39 – Simple question (so I can go directly to the bookies): Who will win from here?
22.00 – On the stroke of half time in extra time Spain have a free-kick. 25 yards out on the the left Sergio Ramos (of all people) unleashes a pile-driver which zips an inch over the cross bar.
We’re in the final 15 minutes and both sides have made their final substitutions. Pedro in for Xavi, Custodio in on for Veloso.
22.15 – Paolo Bento is furiously scribbling five names down on his notepad. Surely he could have done this on the bus here? He’s taking suggestions from all of his coaching staff.
22.21 – Right, first up is Alonso for Spain: And it’s saved low to Patricio’s left.
22.34 – The camera follows Cristiano Ronaldo’s lonely walk off the pitch in Donetsk. The argument is raging as to why he was marked to take penalty number five.
What do you think? Did he bottle it / want to horde all the glory for himself. Or, is there method to the madness of giving him the pressure (but possibly non-existent) fifth spotter.
The debate will rage and rage.
22.38 – All of the focus is on Ronaldo, are people that bored of Spain?
Credit Cesc Fabregas for delivering on the ninth kick, this quote is via @BarcaStuff
“I played a bad game, but I asked to take the 5th penalty. I had a feeling…”
On that note folks, I’ll leave it to ye.
Spain will be favourites to win Sunday’s final when either Germany or Italy will be their opposition. You can follow that game in depth right here tomorrow night.
Until then, stay classy.