EURO 2012

Almeida to get starting role

HUGO ALMEIDA (Foto: Ronny Hartmann/dapd)
Hugo Almeida is set to lead Portugal's attack against Spain tonight.
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Besiktas striker Hugo Almeida is set to be given the daunting task of trying to crack Spain's resolute rearguard and lead Portugal to their second European Championship final.

Almeida has been a bit-part player in Paulo Bento's side's recovery from an opening loss to Germany to match into the last four with successive victories over Denmark, Holland and the Czech Republic.

But Almeida is eager to seize his chance after injury ruled out his team-mate Helder Postiga for the duration of the tournament, leaving Bento no option but to make changes for the first time.

Almeida said: "I've worked hard to be called into the starting line-up and I'll take this opportunity.

"I was a little sad not to be included in the starting line-up but when the opportunity comes you have to be at your very best."

Most attention will inevitably focus on Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, whose double against Holland and quarter-final winner against the Czechs has put them on the brink of another final.

Ronaldo insists he is completely unfazed by the prospect of facing the reigning world and European champions and says his side's mental strength under the leadership of Bento can make a big difference.

Ronaldo told UEFA's official website: "I am not feeling the pressure of playing Spain or any other team because it is part of my life. I will always have responsibility but pressure? Not much.

"We lost our first match and then won all the others. I think that shows the great mental capacity of this team, and it didn't surprise me because I knew the goals would come.

"[Paulo Bento] is doing a great job, not only now but also during qualification. I think he's done a phenomenal job.

"From the moment he took on the national team he has believed in the players and is getting results in the final stage."

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