Spain has concocted a special plan to ensure Cristiano Ronaldo relives the most miserable night of his career during Wednesday's Euro 2012 semifinal.
Ronaldo hopes to not only take Portugal a step closer to a major trophy for the first time, but also erase memories of a defeat to Spain in the 2010 World Cup.
The Real Madrid superstar said he was feeling "wretched, completely desolate, unimaginably sad," as his nation was dumped out of the tournament against the eventual champion in the Round of 16.
He has admitted that missing out on a Euro 2012 winners' medal would hurt even more. To avoid such a fate, Ronaldo must find a way to conquer Spain's detailed defensive master plan.
Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque admitted his team's tactics would primarily center on shutting down Ronaldo, who has scored three goals in the tournament – including the winner in the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic.
Instead of ordering one player to mark Ronaldo, Spain will use a "defense by committee," with a core of players dispatched to shadow the 27-year-old Ronaldo depending on what area of the pitch he is operating in.
"It won't be an individual marking thing, there will be permanent help as there was two years ago," said Del Bosque. "When you have a player like that you need to make sure he is taken care of. He is a different kind of player so he needs a different kind of plan."
"He is one of the best players in the world," said Spain defender Gerard Pique. "If we want to stop him it will have to be a collective effort."
It is likely that the level of attention Ronaldo receives Wednesday will be even greater than in 2010, when he failed to get any kind of foothold as Portugal was eliminated in disappointing fashion.
Since then, he has grown accustomed to being tightly marked when playing for Madrid in La Liga – especially against archrival Barcelona – but has managed to average more than a goal per game.
Spain is expected to use attack-minded players such as Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, keeping constant pressure on Ronaldo whenever he touches the ball.
Ronaldo knows winning Euro 2012 would greatly enhance his chances of reclaiming the Ballon d'Or, the world player of the year award currently held by Argentina's Lionel Messi.
Yet Ronaldo was adamant that he does not feel any extra pressure facing Spain, which is seeking an unprecedented third straight major trophy after winning Euro 2008 and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
"There is not any special pressure," he said. "I have been playing at the highest level for 10 years, both at club and international level. Yes, I feel responsibility, but not pressure. I am used to these matches. Spain is a great side and it will be a very interesting battle, one which I hope we can win. But it will be a tough battle."
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