Challenge for Spain is about more than Ronaldo

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal  during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Czech Republic and Portugal in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Czech Republic and Portugal in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
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Spain defender Alvaro Arbeloa has warned his team-mates not to fall into the trap of assuming Cristiano Ronaldo is the only threat that Portugal pose to their hopes of progressing through to the Euro 2012 final.

Ronaldo has carried his stunning form with Real Madrid last season into the finals and heads into tonight’s semi-final against Iberian rivals Spain as the tournament’s joint leading scorer with three goals.

The world’s most expensive player undoubtedly poses a major risk to Spain’s hopes of defending their European title, but Arbeloa believes his side would be making a big mistake if they focused all their attention on the former Manchester United star.

Right-back Arbeloa, who could find himself going head-to-head against his Madrid team-mate tonight, said yesterday: “We all know that Ronaldo is an excellent player, but Portugal is not only Cristiano.

“They have had an excellent tournament with players of great quality and we have to stop all of them, not only Cristiano.

“We know how good he is, and he is showing that at the Euros. We hope that we have a good game and Cristiano not so much.”

Arbeloa admits he is looking forward to the challenge of trying to stop his club team-mate, who scored 60 goals in all competitions for Madrid last season.

Arbeloa said: “It’s always physically and mentally demanding to face a player who is one of the best and playing at a spectacular level.

“I always like to measure myself against the best, it is a great challenge.”

Ronaldo is not the only Madrid player Spain are set to come up against tonight, with defenders Pepe and Fabio Coentrao also key members of the Portugal side.

Those three, along with Spanish quintet Arbeloa, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol, helped Madrid win their first Primera Division title since 2008 last season.

However, Arbeloa warned his Portuguese colleagues not to expect any favours tonight, saying: “It’s the same as when you are at your clubs and you play against team-mates from the national side. I will have not club-mates, they will be enemies.

“I don’t usually speak with the people against who I’m going to play. I will fight to help Spain get into the final.”

Spain have had mixed success against Ronaldo and Portugal in recent years.

In the 2010 World Cup, Spain nullified the threat from Ronaldo to win their last-16 tie 1-0 in Cape Town before subsequently going on to lift the trophy.

However, in the last meeting between the two neighbouring countries, a friendly match in Lisbon in November 2010, Portugal ran out 4-0 winners following goals from Jorge Carlos Martins, Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida and visiting defender Sergio Ramos, who put into his own net.

When asked about stopping Ronaldo, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said: “We will try to shut him down, the best example of which we can see in the World Cup, which gave us a good result.

“It will possibly be with different men and names, but the idea is always the same.”

As for Ronaldo himself, he insists Portugal’s mental strength can give them the edge at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

Ronaldo is convinced coach Paulo Bento’s men now have the toughness to go one better than their 2004 final loss to Greece, and is unfazed by the prospect of such daunting opponents standing in their way.

“We lost our first match and then won all the others,” he said.

“I think that shows the great mental capacity of this team, and it didn’t surprise me at all because I knew deep down that the goals would come.

“[Paulo Bento] is doing a great job, not only now but also during qualification.

I think he’s done a phenomenal job.

“From the moment he took on the national team he has believed in the players and is getting results in the final stage.”

“I am not feeling the pressure of playing Spain or any other team because it is part of my life. I will always have responsibility – but pressure? Not much.”