Álvaro Arbeloa is putting some of his Real Madrid CF friendships on hold as Spain gear up for their all-Iberian semi-final against Portugal, with club-mates Cristiano Ronaldo, Fábio Coentrão and Pepe set to receive the cold shoulder pre-match in Donetsk.
"For today, I'll have no friends in the Portuguese dressing room," Arbeloa told UEFA.com with a smile. "I won't speak to Fábio, Cristiano or Pepe until the game is finished. On the pitch we'll be sporting enemies, not friends, until it's all over. Having said that, Cristiano is, if not the best, then one of the greatest players in the world, and he's having a really exceptional tournament. He's scoring goals, creating a lot more chances and it's always a challenge to play against people like him."
Arbeloa's coach Vicente del Bosque is a beguiling mix of the ultra-competitive and the ultra-sportsmanlike, and when he considers the last two all-Iberian encounters he is quick to point out which mattered more. The Portuguese still smart from FIFA World Cup elimination at Spain's hands two years ago, taking revenge of a sort in a 4-0 friendly win in November 2010 in Lisbon, the only real disappointment of the Del Bosque era.
"We have to be pretty content because we won the more important match, which was our route to the quarter-final and then eventually World Cup final victory," Del Bosque told UEFA.com. "However, you won't find me dismissing that friendly match, since on that occasion they were better than us and we have to accept that. We are European and world champions, so teams always want to beat us. Thus far, my players have always come up with a formula to counter the tactics the opposition have used against us."
As the man whose goal made Spain global champions, perhaps the final word goes to Andrés Iniesta as he looked ahead to the semi-final. "We need to be proud of the fact that after two tough tournament wins [UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 World Cup] we are here again, competing to be in a final," he told UEFA.com. "We deserve to take stock of the fact that it's a great achievement and what lies in front of us is one last push to be in the final and to compete for this trophy once more."
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