Euro 2008 semi-final, 7.45pm, ITV1
Guus Hiddink may be the miracle man of international football, but he won’t want to shout too loudly about his record in semi-finals. Typically, he guides his sides to the last four and then, just as everyone starts getting overexcited, promptly loses. This time, it’s Spain who are going to bring the big old Dutchman to tears. Here’s why…
Nine reasons why Spain will beat Russia…
1. Spain are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Russia, winning four and drawing three.
2. Not since a 2-1 win in Moscow in 1971, have Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) enjoyed victory against Spain.
3. The sides met in the group stages of this summer’s tournament, with Spain emerging as convincing 4-1 victors.
4. On the three previous occasions that teams have met twice in the same tournament (Portugal/Greece Euro 2004, Brazil/Turkey World Cup 2002 and Germany/Czech Republic Euro 1996) the side that won the first contest have always gone on to win the second as well.
5. Spain’s goalless draw with Italy extended their unbeaten run to twenty matches. Aragones’ men have not been beaten since November 2006.
6. Spain have conceded just four times in their last eleven internationals.
7. Russia have been distinctly average on the road, winning just four of their last fixtures ten away from home.
8. Guus Hiddink has never reached a European or World Cup final, suffering semi-final defeats with Holland at World Cup ‘98 and South Korea in 2002.
9. Spain have won their two previous European Championship semi-finals.
Any other business…
» Six of Russia’s last eight contests have seen more than 2.5 goals.
» None of Russia’s last fourteen internationals have ended goalless and only two have ended all square after ninety minutes.
» Five of the last six European Championship semi-finals have been level after 90 minutes, as has at least one semi in each of the last four Euros.
» Spain’s David Villa (four goals) and Russia’s Roman Pavlyuchenko (three goals) are chasing the golden boot but the country of the last three European Championship top-scorers have all been eliminated in the semi-finals.
» Referee Frank de Bleeckere took charge of Russia’s 2-0 win over Sweden, booking three Russians, and also sent off Bastian Schweinsteiger in Germany’s 2-1 loss to Croatia. The man in black has dismissed four players in his last six European club and international tournament matches.