Poland boss Adam Nawalka has stressed it will not simply be a case of his men stopping Cristiano Ronaldo as they look to overcome Portugal in tonight’s Euro 2016 quarter-final in Marseille.
Nawalka did not hesitate at a pre-match press conference yesterday to label Ronaldo as “one of the best players in the world”, but also emphasised the Poles are not coming up against a one-man team.
Asked if the key to success for Poland would be cancelling out the Real Madrid forward, Nawalka said: “Football is about teamwork.
“There is no team where just one player decides on the outcome of the match. For us, we need to look not only at Cristiano Ronaldo but all the players. They represent a very high level and we need to play at a high level ourselves.”
Poland have made history with their run at this competition, having failed to even win a match in their two previous European Championship campaigns.
Nawalka insists the mood within the camp is not one of surprise at the success – and he says his players are looking ahead to tonight’s contest “full of faith and optimism”.
The 58-year-old – whose side came second in Group C after 1-0 wins over Northern Ireland and Ukraine either side of a 0-0 draw with Germany, then beat Switzerland on penalties in the last 16 – said: “The fact we have achieved these results at the tournament is not really a surprise for us.
“We have been expecting this from the very beginning – that by playing with a high level of football we would do well. My players have achieved a lot already but they want more and more. We are full of faith and optimism in approaching this match.”
Striker Arkadiusz Milik, scorer of the winner against Northern Ireland, admits he is thrilled by the prospect of lining up against Ronaldo in a match he believes Poland have every chance of winning.
“It was only a few years ago that I was trying to learn from Cristiano Ronaldo as well as I could,” the Ajax player said.
“He is a world-class player, one of the world’s best, and players like that you need to follow and take some inspiration from.
“He is a great example. It will be something special for me to play against him – it is great there is a chance for us to meet on the pitch. But, of course, I will try to focus on me and my team and not to be looking up at him.”
He added: “In one way, we have done our job and our mission. But we know we are capable of defeating Portugal, with all due respect.”
Poland’s pace is the main concern for Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
With their main striker Robert Lewandowski failing to score so far, the Poles have relied on their defence and quick counter-attacks to carry the team into the last eight.
“They are a very balanced team. I don’t think they resemble any team we have played so far,” said Santos. “We will have the ball and try our best to make use of our stronger points. We want to have possession in order to score.”