Germany planning to check Ronaldo’s advances

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Germany assistant coach Hans-Dieter Flick has called on his side to keep Cristiano Ronaldo out of shooting range when they face Portugal tonight.

Germany open their Euro 2012 Group B campaign with Joachim Low’s right-hand man calling for the Real Madrid forward to be ‘barred’ from entering the final third of the field and not given any chances from dead-ball situations.

“We have our own philosophy, which is to aim to win every tackle and commit as few fouls as possible,” said Flick.

“In the last 20, 25 or 30 yards, we will try to be careful in the tackles.

“Ronaldo has great free-kick quality and so we have got to pay attention, but we do have a man in our goal who is absolutely world-class.”

Manuel Neuer will be looking to keep Ronaldo and co. out, but the other figures in the Germany back four are not yet fully resolved.

While captain Philipp Lahm has been confirmed as left full-back, and his Bayern Munich team-mate Holger Badstuber practically assured of his place in the centre, two shirts are still up for grabs.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is likely to take one of them, despite taking a knock in training on Thursday.

“Per was a doubt (on Thursday), but fortunately nothing bad happened and it was not as dramatic as we had initially feared,” reported Flick.

“Thursday night, he was given the green light so all our players are available.”

Jerome Boateng is the likely right full-back, but Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels and Lars Bender are Low’s other candidates for what could be a busy night for the Germany defence.

“When you see Nani and Ronaldo, two extraordinary players, in their attack, then you have got to be very alert when Portugal have the ball,” said Flick.

“It is a game against an opponent who are on a par with us and we have got to give it our best to make a good start to the tournament.

“When you win, it gives you good vibes and more self-confidence.”

Both these Euro heavyweights will be keen to avoid a false start which could compromise their entire tournament.

After facing Portugal in Lviv, Germany meet Holland in their second group game while Portugal encounter the Dutch in their final fixture after meeting Denmark next Wednesday.

Losing tonight could therefore have serious repercussions which Germany forward Thomas Muller is particularly keen to avoid.

“Making a good start is crucial because you avoid a pressure situation with the game against Holland,” the Bayern Munich forward said. “We don’t want to go into the Holland game, against a nation who finished second at the last World Cup, with a bad feeling and being nervous that we might not make the quarter-finals.

“You only get three games in the group phase and all three opponents are very strong, so you really cannot afford to slip up.”

Yet while Germany may have one eye on Holland, their coach Low does not want them to lose their focus against one of the sides he believes will have a big say in where the title goes this year.

“Portugal are a team who can beat anybody,” Low warned. “They have very good players who play for big clubs, and they have always been a top nation in tournaments. I don’t just mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course has fantastic skills and can decide games on his own, but also Nani, Pepe; Portugal have a strong backbone and are technically very strong.

“Ronaldo is definitely the star who can decide matches, but they have many other world-class players in their team.”

Ronaldo returned the compliment, but made it clear that Portugal’s game plan will not be based on trying to contain the Germans.

“When we enter any competition, we do so with the intention of winning it,” he said. “We know it will be very difficult, but maybe this will be our turn. Germany are very strong opponents and they have great players, but I think that Portugal are a team who can always play well against top opponents.

“We are facing one of the best opponents, but we have to concentrate on our strengths and be organised and keep our concentration, then we will see what result comes out of it.”

Portugal coach Paulo Bento echoed Ronaldo’s sentiments, reiterating that the focus must be placed on winning in Lviv, without making any calculations about the rest of the group stage.

“We will remain faithful to our own style of play,” he said. “We always try to win and we will try this from the very first minute.”

Either Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez will lead Germany’s attack ahead of attacking midfield trio Muller, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

Bento has one injury doubt with Manchester United’s Nani unable to train in recent days.