Familiar rival Ronaldo awaiting Spain in last four
GNIEWINO, Poland - Reuters
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the quarterfinal against Czech Republic.
Spain’s Euro 2012 semifinal against Portugal will almost certainly hinge on how effectively the defending winner manages to shackle a familiar foe.
Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo is a Real Madrid teammate of Spain players like Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos and a bitter La Liga rival of its Barcelona contingent including Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.
Joint top scorer at the tournament with three goals, Ronaldo typically operates down the left, where he will be looking to get the better of another Real colleague Alvaro Arbeloa, the Spanish right back.
He would never admit it publicly but there is probably little Ronaldo would enjoy more – apart from getting one over on nemesis Lionel Messi – than being the man who sends the world and European champion packing in Donetsk on Wednesday.
Portugal has insisted they are not a one-man team and in Nani they have another dangerous forward, a fact acknowledged by Alonso, who netted both goals in Spain’s 2-0 quarter-final win against France on Saturday.
“Portugal has forwards who can cause problems for us and above all the two wingers Cristiano and Nani are superb players,” Alonso, who made his 100th international appearance against France, told reporters.
“We know Cristiano perfectly and he has been playing at an incredible level all season at Real Madrid,” added the 30-year-old former Liverpool player.
“But the important thing is to focus on ourselves and make sure we are playing at our optimum level.”
The Spanish players are also familiar with two of Portugal’s defenders, centre back Pepe and left back Fabio Coentrao, who both play for Real.
“They also know how to close ranks in defense and they are very solid,” Alonso said.
“Maybe before the game there will be a warmer greeting than usual because he’s your club team mate but in the end you are going to be fighting your own corner,” he added.
“Ultimately everyone is fighting for their own goals.”