SPAIN inspirational captain Iker Casillas can become the first player to notch up 100 victories in international football if his team beat Portugal in today’s Uefa Euro semi-final.
To do so, on his 136th appearance for his country, the Real Madrid goalkeeper will have to thwart his club team mate and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who has three goals at the tournament and has been in scintillating form.
Eliminating the Portuguese, who have only beaten their Iberian neighbours once in seven competitive games, would give Spain a chance to become the first nation to win back-to-back continental titles with a World Cup in between.
Casillas believes former World Player of the Year Ronaldo has still not quite reproduced the form that helped Real win La Liga for the first time in four years last season.
A fired-up Ronaldo has been peppering opposition goals with shots in Portugal’s four Euro 2012 outings and Casillas said he would have to be wary of any deviation in the air due to the peculiar way Ronaldo strikes the ball.
Spain’s last competitive meeting with the Portuguese came at the 2010 World Cup, when they won a close encounter 1-0 thanks to a second-half David Villa strike.
Spain struggled to penetrate Portugal’s defence in that match in Cape Town, but the introduction of towering striker Fernando Llorente early in the second half changed the game.
Llorente, whose strength and height were too much for the Portuguese centre backs, could be an option on Wednesday if the game follows a similar pattern, defender Gerard Pique said.
Pique knows Ronaldo and fellow winger Nani from his time at Manchester United and said it would be wrong for Spain to think Portugal were a one-man team. The winner in today’s game will meet either Germany or Italy in Sunday’s final in Kiev. – Nampa/Reuters