Defender Daley Blind warned Holland they cannot afford to focus solely on the threat posed by Cristiano Ronaldo when they take on Portugal in the inaugural Nations League final.
uThe Estadio do Dragao in Porto will host the European champions’ bid to secure silverware on home soil against Ronald Koeman’s rejuvenated Dutch side.
Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Portugal roared past Switzerland in Wednesday’s semi-final, but former Manchester United man Blind will not get caught in the trap of focusing on one man.
After all, the 29-year-old has already got the better of one of the world’s greatest ever players this season as surprise package Ajax knocked perennial Serie A champions Juventus out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals.
‘With Ajax we planned to stop Juventus, not just Cristiano Ronaldo,’ Blind said.
‘And it’s the same now – we have to stop Portugal, not Ronaldo. Of course, he is a player who can make the difference, but we have to be prepared for all the Portuguese players. There are enough videos of Portugal’s previous match that we can analyse.
‘It’s a great feeling to be playing the final with your country and having the opportunity to win a prize. It’s different than when you play for your club.
‘We’ve got a great group of players, all hungry for success. If you reach the end you want to win. It’s the first Nations League, so we can write history by winning it.’
Koeman believes highly-rated defensive duo Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs De Ligt have the ability to thwart Ronaldo, of whom Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio says the squad are “very proud”.
But, much like Blind, the Wolves shot-stopper pointed to the fact that Fernando Santos’ side reached the final due to a team effort.
‘It’s great to have the opportunity to work with Cristiano,’ he said at the pre-match press conference.
‘On and off the pitch he’s a fantastic professional. We are very proud of him and we learn a lot from him. We are all playing to win here, not just Cristiano. We all want to win this trophy. He works every day for that, just like we all do.
‘It’s great that he scored a hat-trick against Switzerland, but he does not have any additional responsibilities on his shoulders. He does what we all do, which is to fight for this trophy.’
Portugal lifted the European Championship trophy in 2016, having lost the final to Greece on home soil 12 years earlier.
This time around, Patricio is keen to secure a trophy in front of his compatriots and knows Holland will pose a tough threat.
‘We are very proud to be playing on home soil, and all the more because it’s the final,’ the goalkeeper added. ‘It is perfect to play here.
‘They are a very strong team, like all teams in these finals. Their players are technically and tactically well-evolved, but playing the final at home, we’ll do our best to win. It will, without doubt, be a fantastic game.’
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