Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque played down the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday, insisting Portugal was not a one-man band. The Iberian arch-rivals face each other for a place in the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals on Tuesday with Ronaldo desperate to see his team progress.
Del Bosque admitted the world's most expensive footballer would pose a problem, but he was keen to make clear the entire Portugal team was dangerous. "I don't think we should become obsessed with him," he said of the Real Madrid forward. "We must centre our attention on Portugal as a team. It has shown itself defensively and offensively to be a complete squad. They are in top shape."
The task of taming Ronaldo will go to Joan Capdevila and the Villarreal defender noted that he would have his hands full. Asked how he would deal with the former Manchester United superstar, Capdevila replied: "That's complicated. When you play someone like him, you have to be nimble and very fast, very fast indeed. He will probably have a lot of freedom on the pitch and will move around, so we need to be very alert.
"The best way to stop him is to be assisted by my team-mates. But we must also be very careful not just of him but others who come up from the back. We can't just focus on Cristiano. We must pay attention to his teammates as well."
We must centre our attention on Portugal as a team. It has shown itself defensively and offensively to be a complete squad.
The European champions have pulled themselves together after a 1-0 opening game loss to Switzerland, getting back on track with a 2-0 win against Honduras before beating 10-man Chile 2-1. Del Bosque said his team were a humble and down-to-earth bunch, and there was no danger of them being complacent in their quest to win the country's first FIFA World Cup.
"I don't think a defeat is ever good, it was damaging to us," he said of the shock Switzerland result. "But I don't think we had to learn lessons. This group is very humble and modest. We are not on cloud nine, we are in reality and fully realise each match is difficult. As to motivation, that first stumble has been highly motivating.
"Against Portugal, we will try to take the initiative but so will they. They have a very good generation of players. It seemed their world came to an end when Figo and company retired, but they have got another great generation. They are not just here to participate, they want to win like us."
The Cape Town clash will be the two teams' first meeting at a FIFA World Cup, but the pair share a lengthy footballing history featuring no fewer than 32 previous matches. Spain have the edge with 15 wins to just five victories for Portugal.
Striker David Villa said he was confident his team could score despite Portugal's impressive defensive record, with no team getting a goal against them yet. "Portugal have very impressive players, especially in defence," he said. "That's why they haven't conceded goals. We must play our game, gain possession and keep it. If we have opportunities, I am quite certain we can score goals."