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Ronaldo sees going getting tougher ahead of quarter-finals

SoccerNews in European Championships 15 Jun 2008

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With speculation over his future reaching fever pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo insists he is only concentrating on the tougher challenges that lie ahead for Portugal at Euro 2008.

Portugal have already wrapped up first spot in group A, making their match against already-eliminated co-hosts Switzerland here on Sunday little more than a training exercise.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is set to ensure those members of his squad who have yet to feature in the tournament get some match time while the likes of Ronaldo will be used sparingly to ensure they are fresh for Thursday's quarter-final against Germany, Poland or Austria.

The relaxed schedule for the Portuguese has only served to intensify speculation that Ronaldo could be close to deciding about whether he wants to quit Manchester United for Real Madrid in a deal that would smash the world transfer record and make him the best paid player in the history of the game.

Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, is reportedly due in Basel to watch the match and update his client on the ongoing and increasingly bitter tug-of-war between the two clubs over the winger.

The player himself has insisted he will say nothing about his future until the tournament is over, and claimed his only concern now was to ensure he and his team-mates are ready for a potentially tricky quarter-final.

“We have to expect that, as the tournament goes on, it's going to be more difficult with each game,” Ronaldo said. “There have already been surprises. A lot of people thought Germany would win their group but they lost to Croatia.”

Ronaldo acknowledged Portugal will not be at full strength but backed the fringe players in the squad to press their claims for promotion at the expense of a Swiss side seeking to end a bitterly disappointing tournament on a high.

“Most of the players who have not played yet will get a chance and they will give their best,” Ronaldo added. “They'll want to show the coach they want to be in the starting line-up for the next matches.”

One of those players is midfielder/defender Fernando Meira, who says the squad is determined to send Scolari off to Chelsea, where he will take on the manager's role after the tournament, on a high.

“We want to do something really beautiful here, and to dedicate it to him,” Meira said. “He is a great coach, and we are sad because we will miss him.”

Switzerland were unlucky to succumb to defeats to the Czech Republic and Turkey in their first two matches and head coach Jakob Kuhn faces a tough task in seeking to get his players motivated for his final match at the helm of the national side.

“With a little bit more luck the tournament could have been so much better, so that is hard to bear,” he admitted. “But we have to look forward and give the Swiss supporters, a high quality match.”

Kuhn is retiring after seven years at the helm of the Swiss national side, whom he led to the second round of the last World Cup.

The veteran coach had to prepare his squad while also caring for his wife, Alice, who suffered an epileptic seizure before the tournament began and spent over a week in an artificially-induced coma, from which she has now emerged.

Kuhn is to be replaced by former Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld.

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