Spain’s players say that halting Cristiano Ronaldo will not suffice if they are to overcome Iberian rivals Portugal in Wednesday’s Euro 2012 semi-final.
Vicente del Bosque’s side booked their place in the last four with a straightforward 2-0 win over France on Saturday and now face a Portugal team buoyed by the fact Ronaldo has belatedly found his feet at a major tournament.
After several disappointing showings at major championships, the Real Madrid superstar has rediscovered his club form in thrilling fashion in the last week.
He took Portugal into the last 16 with a brace in a 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands and then put paid to the Czech Republic on Thursday with the only goal in their last-eight encounter in Warsaw.
Neither the Dutch nor the Czechs had any answer to the 27-year-old’s surging raids down the left flank, and with three goals, he is now the competition’s joint-top scorer.
Spain’s players are no stranger to the prolific forward, whose qualities are familiar to both his Madrid teammates and his rivals at Barcelona.
Andres Iniesta felt Ronaldo’s wrath in Madrid’s 2-1 win over Barca at Camp Nou in April, which effectively gave Jose Mourinho’s side the La Liga title, but he says it would be foolish only to focus on the Portuguese captain.
“Our motivation now is that we are just one step away from another final,” said the Spain midfielder.
“We’ll be playing against Portugal, and not just Cristiano. They have great players and it will be difficult.”
Spain’s players will have two days less than their adversaries to prepare for Wednesday’s match in Donetsk, but Iniesta says knowledge of the prize at stake will counter-balance the effects of any lingering fatigue.
“We’ll try to make sure we’re OK,” he said. “We’re one game from the final, and that’s all that matters.”
Ronaldo’s direct opponent at Donbass Arena is likely to be his Madrid team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa, while he will also be up against club-mates Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso.
“It be another great, difficult encounter,” said Casillas.
“Portugal have put in some impressive performances, but to win the European Championship, you have to win against everyone.”