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O'Neill wants to ruin Ronaldo party
Published : 16 Oct 2012 09:47:37
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as a "goal machine" ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Portugal, then told his players they must find a way to stop him.
When Ronaldo steps out at the Dragao Stadium he will, at the age of only 27, become only the third Portuguese player to win 100 caps after Luis Figo and Fernando Couto.
"We have to recognise the quality of the opposition but we are not sitting here just hoping for Ronaldo to have an off night, we have trained to this level in preparation," O'Neill said.
"It is our job to make sure they do have an off night and we can add to them having a frustrating night by taking our opportunity when it presents itself."
After an unstoppable start to the season with Real Madrid, few would bet against him marking the occasion with a goal, or more, but O'Neill has been preparing his side for a week to play the role of spoilsports in Porto.
"We know what we are facing here. I think what Ronaldo has is he is a goal machine as well as creative, I have seen him numerous times, we know where the threat will come from," he said.
"His ability is not just in set-pieces or taking free-kicks but also corners and he is very good in the air, attacking things from the back post area.
"That is all stuff we have worked on. Can we reduce his possession? Can we get men around him to make life difficult? Of course."
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, meanwhile, is eager to make up for what was widely accepted to be an opportunity lost last month. Defeat away to Russia in the Group F opener was always likely, but a 1-1 home draw to Luxembourg left a sour taste in the mouth and Davis wants to banish that disappointment at the first opportunity.
"Luxembourg was a big chance to get three points and we were massively disappointed not to, so hopefully something special can happen here and that will kick us off for the campaign," he said.