Hugo Almeida may have played for only 50 minutes of Portugal's UEFA EURO 2012 campaign so far, but on Wednesday he will start against defending champions Spain in their semi-final in Donetsk – it is not an opportunity he intends to slip by.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento makes no bones about the fact he likes to stick to what he knows. He has selected the same starting XI for the last six competitive games but at the Donbass Arena he must make a change to account for the absence of injured striker Hélder Postiga.
The 20-year-old Nélson Oliveira has come on as a substitute three times in this tournament but it was the more experienced Almeida, 28, who replaced Postiga when he was forced off with a thigh injury in the first half of the quarter-final win against the Czech Republic. Placed alongside Bento at Tuesday's pre-match press briefing, the Beşiktaş JK striker looks certain to start against Spain.
"I'm very satisfied with that," he told the assembled media. "
I've worked a lot to be called to the starting lineup and I'll take this opportunity. I want to show my very best, that's logical. I've always been motivated, like all 23 players in the squad. We were the ones chosen and all of us want to play. Of course, I was a little sad not to be in starting lineup, but it's all about work. When your opportunity comes, you have to be at your very best to help your team on the pitch."
Postiga's injury may have forced Bento's hand, but Almeida is sure Portugal "won't have to change our style" to accommodate his more physical presence. From a personal point of view, there is one aim and one aim only. "I'll continue my work and try to score. Nothing else is important," he added.
"We have to score: that is our first job. We know Spain have great quality. They have stunning players, and we'll have to continue our work and try everything to score. I think that the whole Spanish team is very strong and we'll have to stick to our style. We will focus on ourselves. We want to play a great game and that's what we're focused on."
Almeida is as well qualified as anyone to breach a Spanish defence which has kept eight successive clean sheets in major tournament knockout games. They have not always been so miserly, however, losing 4-0 to Portugal the last time they met – in a November 2010 friendly when Almeida rounded off the scoring.
"I'm sure it will be difficult against these players, but we'll try our best to score and I'm very confident," added Almeida. "It would be a great dream [to go through] and I'd be very proud."
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