Stopping Cristiano Ronaldo will be Spain’s primary task as the defending champions take on Portugal in Euro 2012 semis on Wednesday.
The last meeting between Spain and Portugal was a friendly in Lisbon, where the home side triumphed 4-0, delivering La Roja their worst defeat for 47 years.
Helder Postiga, who bagged a brace back then, misses Wednesday’s match with a thigh injury, but he should be replaced by Hugo Almeida, who netted goal number four.
This summer, Portugal finished second to Germany in Group B and beat the Czechs in the last eight, getting better in each game, along with Cristiano Ronaldo.
The infuriated skipper was denied a superb goal in that Spain victory as an offside Nani headed in on the line. And Ronaldo remains focused on reproducing his stellar club form at international level.
“Playing with Cristiano Ronaldo is always a great source of satisfaction and pride,” Hugo Almeido, Portugal’s forward, said. “He is among the world’s best players, a great professional. He is doing everything he can, and the rest of the team is following suit in order to try and make it to the final.”
Portugal are seeking their first major title after being stunned by Greece at home in 2004.
However, a fully-fit Spain should field four Real Madrid colleagues – Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa – as well as a large Barcelona contingent, who’ll attempt to thwart the winger, while maybe giving Fernando Torres and Pepe a chance to shine.
“It’s not easy to stop Ronaldo,” Alvaro Arbeloa, Spain’s defender, said. “Everyone knows this because he has scored three goals in the tournament thus far. But we also know that Portugal has other stars like Nani, who is doing really well at this tournament and other quality players. So we have to stop all of them, not just Cristiano.”
However, despite easing through Group C, Spain have been criticized for dominating play, but not sparkling, especially in the last 2-0 win over France.
“We hope that Spain will keep making progress, and that our country will keep playing an important role in the world of football,” Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s coach, said. “We are going through a good phase right now. We spent a long time looking for our style, and now that we have found it, some people do not like it. But this style has allowed us to win games. Regardless, some people will continue complaining about it.”
Victory on Wednesday would keep Spain on track to clinching a unique treble, defending their European title while still current World champions.
Long-time rivals Germany and Italy clash in the other Euro 2012 semi-final on Thursday, with the deciding game scheduled to take place on July 1.