Xavi: It will be tough to beat Portugal

Spain playmaker warns his team-mates that there's more to semi-final Iberian rivals than just Ronaldo

Mark Ogden

XAVI HERNANDEZ claims Spain must overcome more than Cristiano Ronaldo if they are to reach a third successive major final at the expense of Portugal in tomorrow night's Euro 2012 semi-final in Donetsk.

Portugal, eliminated from the 2010 World Cup by eventual winners Spain, will face their Iberian neighbours in the Donbass Arena after defeating the Czech Republic in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

Real Madrid forward Ronaldo scored the winning goal in Warsaw after dominating the tie, having also carried the Portuguese to victory in their final group game against Holland.

But despite Ronaldo's stellar performances so far this tournament, Spain midfielder Xavi insists that the Portuguese are not solely reliant on the former Manchester United player.

"I've watched all their games," Xavi said. "They are a team of a high level and have gained in confidence in the last two games they won.

"They are better than in the World Cup. They have improved, matured, and defend very well and then they are so dangerous on the wings with Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo -- players who can dribble and shoot brilliantly

"They know how to hit you on the break very well and (Fabio) Coentrao is also in good form. They have players with a lot of talent and also in midfield with (Joao) Moutinho and (Raul) Meireles. They are top level, so it will be a very difficult game."


Spain's emergence as the world's best team in recent years has seen them play an incredible eight knock-out games -- dating back to the 2006 World Cup defeat against France -- without conceding a goal.

Their success has prompted many to claim that they are unbeatable and lacking a genuine rival, but Barcelona playmaker Xavi claims Spain must still overcome stiff competition.

He said: "There are rivals. It seems like there is no rival but there is. Portugal are a rival and we had to beat France on Saturday night. They seemed like they were not there, but it was difficult for us. We had never beaten France (at a tournament) before in our history.

"Spain has the team to go far, but we have to respect our rivals. Portugal have a great team, and we will compete well but it's a difficult rival. We have to impose our personality, have possession of the ball and compete as we have been doing."

Meanwhile, the Spanish squad are set to vacate their Polish training camp in Gniewino and prepare in the Ukraine for Sunday's final in Kiev if they defeat Portugal.

Coach Vicente del Bosque and players such as Xavi and Cesc Fabregas admitted that the heat and humidity in Donetsk proved a problem against France, having spent three weeks in the cooler climate of northern Poland.