Semi Final 1: Germany v Turkey
Apparently Turkey are so short of players they will be bringing in Muzzy Izzet and the bloke who played Roland on Grange Hill. Well, maybe not, but they are rumoured to be considering an outfield position for their third choice goalkeeper since they only have 13 fit players.
Volkan Demirel failed to halve his two game suspension, Emre has been ruled out with a hamstring problem, Nihat has a thigh injury and is out of the tournament and three more players – Tuncay, Arda Turan and Emre Asik – are out of contention after picking up a second yellow in the quarter-final.
Germany are feeling relaxed and perhaps comfortable in the role of favourites. Their quarter-final win over Portugal restored some self-confidence after below-par performances against Croatia and Austria. Bastian Schweinsteiger should keep his place after his winning performance against Portugal and Torsten Frings may return after injury.
It all points to a hopeless cause for a team without numerous first team players – but you never know. Turkey will be hoping that unlike Dr David Banner, who couldn’t find the strength to rescue his girlfriend from under his overturned car, they may be able to triumph without the need for a dangerous overdose of gamma rays.
As with the quarter-finals there is little to choose between the teams but I’ll lean towards a full-strength Germany to nick it.
Prediction: Germany 1 Turkey 0
Semi Final 2: Russia v Spain
It’s a predictable way to open a column about the Russia/Spain game but you could have got huge odds on this being a semi-final match in the wake of Spain’s opening match thrashing of the Russians. I wrote of the Russians the following day: “They are perhaps unfortunate to have met one of the best teams of the tournament in the first game and they may yet take four points from their last two games yet.”
Indeed, Russia have won three games in a row since then, scoring 6 goals in the process. Spain have won two and drawn one since then, scoring just four goals. Arguably their most unimpressive performance came against the stubborn Italians in the quarter-finals.
It will be a different game against the Russians though. Even the talented Dutch side they beat in the previous round played defensively in fear of what the attacking Russians could do to them. The Spanish will find it an open game and that will play to their strengths. They also have the usually-potent forward line of Torres and Villa – both unimpressive against Italy – to expose an arguably weak Russian defence.
For Russia, Vasily Berezutsky will likely replace the suspended Denis Kolodin. But at the other end of the pitch they will have Zyryanov, Zhirkov, Arshavin and the improving Pavlyuchenko to terrorise the sometimes-fragile Carlos Puyol and Sergio Ramos.
The big decision for Luis Aragones is whether or not he accomodates Cesc Fabregas in a starting position at the expense of Xavi or Marcos Senna. Perhaps Andrés Iniesta is not safe either after a lacklustre performance against Italy.
My heart says Russia here even if my head says Spain. I think a Russia v Germany final would be fresh and exciting.
So, let’s listen to the heart.
Prediction: Russia 3 Spain 2