Ronaldo determined to make it third time unlucky for Ballack
Cristiano Ronaldo is backing Portugal’s superior skill levels to overcome Germany’s strength and organisation as he seeks to complete a hat-trick of victories over Michael Ballack.
The 42 goals Ronaldo plundered for Manchester United last season were the main reason Ballack's Chelsea had to settle for runners-up spots in both the English Premier League and the Champions League, and the winger is determined to inflict more pain on Germany's captain in Wednesday's Euro 2008 quarter-final here.
"Germany are a very mature team and it will be tough, but every team has weaknesses," Ronaldo said. "Both teams are good. The way Portugal play is perhaps more about technique and Germany have more physically strong players.
"But it's not a problem for us because we have a lot of experience in our squad and we know what we have to do on the pitch.
"Of course I've thought about getting to the final. We are going very well at the moment in training and confidence is high, but we know that first of all we have to get the job done against Germany."
Ballack's tears after Chelsea lost the Champions League final to United on penalties have enhanced his reputation as a player who is condemned to always miss out on the biggest prizes.
But he denies being haunted by memories of Moscow, his 2000/01 season with Bayer Leverkusen (who threw away the Bundesliga title and lost in both the German Cup and Champions League finals) or the 2002 World Cup, where he missed the final defeat by Brazil through suspension.
"It is not something that worries me. I've already won enough trophies in my career," said Ballack. "Of course I still want to win more but it is not something that I'm obsessed with."
The two countries last met in the 3rd-4th play-off match at the 2006 World Cup with Germany emerging 3-1 winners.
Two years on, Portugal are undoubtedly stronger as a result of Ronaldo's evolution into arguably the best player on the planet and the increased experience of what is a mature defensive unit. Germany, in contrast, have failed to live up to their pre-tournament status as the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy and it required a free-kick special from Ballack to sink Austria and clinch their place in the last eight.
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- Athletic Bilbao knocked out defending champion Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup with a 2-1 win, setting up a final against Barcelona.
- Arsenal were bidding for a fourth successive league win but could find no way through an obdurate Palace who, if anything, might feel they could have emerged with a win.