Ronaldo the key for Portugal
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will find himself in the unenviable position on Wednesday of having to confront both his closest rivals and some of his best friends.
In the European championships semi-final against Spain in Donetsk, Ronaldo is to face his Real Madrid friends and teammates Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso.
Just sas importantly, the opposition also includes Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, all from Real’s arch-rivals Barcelona.
Adding to the plot, Portugal also feature Real Madrid’s Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, so the match could turn into a remix of the hot-blooded classics of Spanish football between the white and blue-and-red shirts.
Spain’s players are well aware of the potential of the Portugal superstar, who has scored 69 goals so far this season.
“Cristiano makes a difference on a global scale. He has taken it upon himself to carry Portugal’s weight over the past two matches, and personal challenges are the best for any footballer,” Sergio Ramos said.
Ramos highlighted the fact that the winger scored two goals against the Netherlands and the winning goal in the quarter-finals against the Czech Republic.
“We know of his ability, his capacity to be definitive, and we know he can make trouble at any time,” said Xabi Alonso.
Pique, who has often marked Ronaldo well and who shared a changing room with the star at Manchester United, stressed that the Portuguese player has “incredible qualities”.
“We’ll have to mark him collectively with a lot of help, knowing that he can get past you but that there will be a teammate behind who can give you a hand. Having the ball will mean that he is less involved and that he has fewer options of getting past,” the defender said.
The personal clash between goalscorer Ronaldo and keeper Casillas will be a major source of interest in Donetsk.
Although there was once talk of a bad relationship between the two, it seems things have gone back to normal, and on Sunday Portugal’s Joao Pereira even mentioned the possibility that they might have sent each other text messages ahead of the semi-final.
“Portugal’s and Spain’s 23 know each other very well. I haven’t got messages from anyone, but I think Casillas, Pepe and Ronaldo have sent each other messages. That’s normal, they’re teammates and those things are normal among friends,” Pereira said.© AP 2013
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