Goalless semi highlights lack of quality strikers

A disappointing semifinal between Spain and Portugal served again to highlight the dearth of quality strikers at Euro 2012, a failing that has been somewhat disguised by the debate over tactics.

Critics of Spain have questioned coach Vicente Del Bosque’s decision to play, against Italy and France, without a recognised striker, worrying that it may mark a trend others will follow but perhaps a lack of outstanding forwards is the real worry.

Del Bosque did field a classic number nine against Portugal on Wednesday, in Alvaro Negredo who did not manage a single shot on target and made little contribution before being replaced by midfielder Cesc Fabregas in the 54th minute.

Fabregas grabbed the headlines by converting the winning penalty in Spain’s 4-2 shootout success after a goalless 120 minutes but his introduction was another signal from Del Bosque that he has little faith in his main strikers Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente, who watched the match from the bench.

Perhaps if David Villa had not been injured prior to the tournament, Del Bosque would have avoided the six-man midfield approach which has seen Spain, too often, run out of options when they arrive in the final third.

Torres, who scored the winning goal in the 2008 final win over Germany, has struggled at club level since his move to Chelsea in January 2011 and his drop in form left Del Bosque with a headache which he cured by playing without a striker.
Portugal, whose first choice centre forward Helder Postiga was injured for the semifinal, played Hugo Almeida up front with Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo out wide.

Almeida, who plays for Besiktas in Turkey, was at least a physical presence that gave Spain’s all-too-often untroubled back line something to think about, but when he did break free his finishing lacked finesse.

If Portugal or Spain had a striker, or two, with the quality to match their accomplished midfields, it might have been a game where the memories were about a wonderful goal and not the unsatisfactory elimination process of the shootout.

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