Spain vs Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo’s date with destiny

Iberian rivals Spain and Portugal do battle in the Euro 2012 semi-finals on Wednesday night, with both vying for a place in the competition final against Germany or Italy. Cristiano Ronaldo will be vital to his nation’s chances of progression, as the Portuguese superstar can further enhance his stock with a strong performance and potential victory.

Ronaldo had to cop a fair amount of criticism after blunt performances against Germany and Denmark in Portugal’s opening two games, with rumblings of international retirement being banded about in the press. However, like all great players, CR7 has bounced back to show his worth when it matters, with man-of-the-match performances and three goals against Netherlands and Czech Republic.

After a record-setting domestic season with Real Madrid expectations on the ex-Manchester United forward have gone through the roof, as Portugal rely on the attacker heavily to provide a cutting-edge in the last third. Although Paulo Bento’s men have recorded some good victories in their last games, they will need to step up another level to compete with and challenge world champions Spain.

Ronaldo will know his opponents on Wednesday well, as he will be in direct competition with Los Blancos team-mates Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso, and take-on other La Liga players that he clashes with on a regular basis. That said, the Spanish side will be more than aware of Ronaldo’s threat, and the Portuguese star can expect close attention from the likes of Arbeloa and Sergio Busquets.

Ronaldo’s individual skill and ability to win the game by himself has been shown both for Real Madrid and Portugal in the recent past, but against Spain the Iberian nation will need the star to play for the team, act like a captain and forget about individual ambition. The likes of Nani, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho and others will strive to aid their skipper and a collective team effort will be need to conquer the holders.

Portugal go into the game as underdogs, and rightly so given the calibre and record of success of their opponents. However, Ronaldo will know that the game and the potential remainder of the tournament give him the chance to write history and put a stake in the ground. As his personal battle with Lionel Messi wages on, if CR7 can captain the Iberian nation to an unlikely tournament victory he would surely command the Ballon d’Or trophy once more, and do something that the Barcelona man has failed to; succeed on the international scene.

Ronaldo’s name is likely to go down alongside some of the greats when he hangs up his boots, but inspiring an unfancied Portugal team to glory in Ukraine and Poland would be a monumental achievement. Wednesday is Cristiano Ronaldo’s date with destiny, as the star attempts to be spoken of in the same breath as Pele, Maradona, Cruyff and the best in the game’s history.

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