In the build-up to the Iberian clash between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk the focus of the media differs between the two countries with most of the Spanish discussion centred on Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese most concerned with Uefa’s choice of referee.
The Portugese Federation is reportedly “outraged and disgusted” (Diario de Noticias) with Uefa’s decision to name Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir as the man in charge of tonight’s game.
According to Portuguese newspapers A Bola and Record, this appointment reflects the close relationship between Angel Villar, President of the Spanish Football Federation and Uefa Referees Committee, and Senes Erzik, Turkish and vice-chairman of the same committee.
Sources from the FPF say, "there were better candidates from countries that are already at home, but Uefa have chosen the latter, who is not the level of others, in fact much less."
Some areas of the Portuguese press have even leveled accusations of conspiracy against Uefa President Michel Platini. The Frenchman has made no secret of the fact that he would prefer the final to feature Spain and Germany and this has riled the Portuguese.
The Diario de Noticias highlighted the fact that during the match between Croatia and Spain, the Croatians should have been awarded two penalties, one five minutes from time. If they had converted both of them Spain would have been out of the Euros. This slice of luck certainly falls in line with “Platini’s plan”.
The Spanish press has picked up on Portugal’s complaints and Marca today ran the ironic headline: "Spain’s biggest threat? Platini!"
Supporters of Los Rojas have, however, found their own reasons to complain.
Following their victory over France, Vincente del Bosque’s side have two days less break than the Portuguese before their semi-final clash.
El País says that the Spanish players are now "at their physical limit" and blames the "incredible lack of judgment" by Uefa that granted "the perk" to Portugal "to play the semi-finals with 48 hours more rest than their opposition ".
Much of the attention in Spain has turned towards Ronaldo as he is expected to be Portugal’s only chance of progression. Many believe that the match will be Spain against the masterclass that is CR7.
Diario de Noticias reports that in anticipation of this fact, “Spanish fans waited for the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in Donetsk to provoke and insult the Portuguese player.”
As with almost every other interview of a Spanish player, in an interview by AS Xabi Alonso’s first question is: “Do you have any plans prepared to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo? How should you defend against Cristiano Ronaldo?”
Almost all those asked, much like the media, have been full of praise for the winger.
Vincente del Bosque acclaimed Ronaldo saying that Portugal “do not need to play a lot because of their counter-attack with Ronaldo. He is unique there is no one else like him.”
The Spanish Sports headlined with: "Cristiano is a concern, but we must keep our style."
Iker Casillas however, in what can only be seen as an attempt to disrupt the winger’s mental preparation, said that his Real Madrid team-mate was “not at his best.” (Diario de Noticias)
Marca identifies the key battle of the match as that between Ronaldo and Alvaro Arbeloa, saying that “the duel may be the key to the semi-final.”
Despite the trepidation in the media Del Bosque has not prepared any 'anti-Ronaldo plan'. "We play the same way, regardless of the rival. We know Cristiano well and can make small adjustments, nothing more". (Diario de Noticias)
Apart from Ronaldo’s importance, the one opinion that is shared by the Spanish and Portuguese press is that tonight’s game will be a clash of opposite footballing philosophies.
Marca identifies the difference with the headline: “A semi-final of opposite poles.”
Marking the difference between the Spaniards use of “touch, possession and patience against the fast-paced counter attacking style,” favoured by the Portuguese. (Marca)
No one knows which style will come out on top but what is certain in both countries is that Cristiano Ronaldo will have to perform at the peak of his ability if Portugal are to triumph.