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Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal threat bigger than Ronaldo, says Poland coach Nawalka

Marseille (AFP) – A “top class” Portugal pose a bigger threat than just Cristiano Ronaldo, Poland coach Adam Nawalka insisted Wednesday ahead of their battle for a place in the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

Ronaldo has been racking up the records in France as Portugal, who stunned Croatia to reach the last 16, go in search of unprecedented international glory.

The Real Madrid star became the first player to score in four editions of the competition and is now just one goal away from matching French legend Michel Platini’s record mark of nine goals in the finals. 

But with only two goals in four games, Ronaldo has failed to live up to expectations.

Nawalka was reluctant to “even speak about” the threat posed by the three-time World Player of the Year, but insisted the biggest danger comes from a world class Portugal team.

“I don’t even want to mention Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s one of the best in the world,” Nawalka said in Marseille on Wednesday.

“Football is a team game. No one player can decide the outcome of a match. Portugal have top class players throughout their team and we have to also focus on them.

“But what is clear is, when they recover possession, they counter very well. They’re a dangerous team and we’re expecting a very difficult match.”

– Goals needed –

While Portugal hope and pray Ronaldo rises to the occasion amid an underwhelming campaign so far, the White Eagles will be hoping they can maintain the dream of going one step further, said striker Arkadiusz Milik.

Despite scoring only one goal so far and facing criticism for his lack of clinical finishing, he is hoping to make amends.

“There’s a lot of interest in us back home in Poland. That reflects very well on us, and we want to keep the fans dreaming,” said Milik, whose solitary strike came in a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Milik and star strike partner Robert Lewandowski are under pressure to make more of their chances with Poland having scored just three times in four games.

The Ajax striker revealed he has been texting former Arsenal forward Dennis Bergkamp during the tournament having forged a “close relationship” with the Dutch club’s assistant manager.

Although he did not reveal the content, Milik is hoping to make improvements to his game.

“Maybe I haven’t been as clinical in front of goal as I should have, but hopefully I’ll get some more chances,” he said.

“I don’t really care,” about the media criticism, he added. “I try to do my job on the pitch and try to fulfil the tactical mission the coach gives me.”

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski scored 42 goals this season, but has failed to find the net in France.

However, Nawalka insisted his captain was leading by example.

“I’m very happy with his performances and he’s fulfilling a very important role, both as the captain for his teammates and also on the pitch.

“He’s in great physical form and mentally he’s strong. He’s doing a very good job and let’s keep it that way.”

Asked about the threat of Portugal and, in particular, Ronaldo, Milik said: “We’re trying to approach it like any other match. We don’t feel extra pressure, or that we’re fighting for a semi-final place.

“We know we have to do our best, and it will be the same tomorrow.

“For the bookmakers, it would be a surprise for Poland to qualify, but we know our strengths and we know we’re capable of going through.”

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