KEIR RADNEDGE in DONETSK: Never mind ‘false nines’ from Spain, there is no false modesty or diplomacy coming from Portugal ahead of tonight’s Euro 2012 semi-final here. They are confident they can beat the world and European champions and are not afraid to say so.
Probably the one quality, above all others, which is undeniable and provides Paul Bento’s men with a weapon unique among all the contenders, is technical brilliance.
Spain have it bucketloads which is why the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta and Co can smuggle the ball around at speed to the bemusement of opponents like a football version of the old Harlem Globetrotters.
But Portugal have the mastery of the ball to do that as well. Also, they have the one weapon absent from Spain’s armoury: a rapier up in attack in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo.
None of the defeatist, defensive talk of Laurent Blanc. Portugal striker Hugo Almeida, who will start up front in place of injured Helder Postiga, said: “We have to score. Spain have great qualities, stunning players but we will have to try everything to score. I’m very proud to be playing alonside one of the greatest players in gthe world and I know he’ll do everything to lead Portugal to the final.”
To that end Bento insisted Portugal were ready to Spain at their own possession game.
He said: “There will be moments in the game when we can pass the ball around a lot. We want possession of the ball but we are aware that we will be playing against team that is better at this than all the others.
“Still, we have the ambition and courage. They have courage too so it will come down to patience. We know what we have to do: we have to impose our pressure on our opponents in the various areas of the pitch and our aim is not to defend all the time. We won’t be doing that even though they are the European and world champions.
“Of course it will be diffcult but I think there are other teams out there who know that we can make a lot of problems for Spain. We are in sight of the second major final in our history and we won’t have any anxieties. We are aware of our responsibility on behalf of all the Portuguese people.”
Bento accepted that “there will some better moments for them, some for us,” but he pointed out that Spain had endured difficult phases of play against teams with technical talent such as Italy and Croatia.
He ended with the rallying cry which will also, doubtless, he his last words to his players before he sends them on their way to destiny or defeat tonight: “We believe we can win against Spain . . . we have great confidence.”
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