The first quarter-final of Euro 2016 took place on Thursday night, as Portugal progressed past Poland on penalties to become the first team to make it to the semi-finals of the competition.
Poland enjoyed a dream start taking the lead after just two minutes. Southampton full-back Cedric Soares misguided a long ball and winger Kamil Grosicki picked-up the ball down the left.
The Rennes star produced a pinpoint cross to pick-out Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski near the penalty area and the striker slotted the ball past Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal. The goal was the second fastest in the history of the European Championships.
Portugal equalised on 33 minutes. Highly-rated youngster Renato Sanches played a one-two with Nani before receiving the ball back on the edge of the area. The 18-year-old took a touch and hit a powerful effort towards goal that took a heavy deflection off Grzegorz Krychowiak before beating Lukasz Fabianski.
The game saw very few other chances, with Cristiano Ronaldo going close on a couple of occasions. However, the game finished 1-1 in normal-time and went to extra-time. In the extra-time period there were very few clear-cut chances on goal and the game went to penalty kicks.
All the penalties were scored until Poland winger Jakub Blaszczykowski stepped-up to take the Poles fourth effort and saw his spot-kick superbly palmed away by Rui Patricio. Substitute Ricardo Quaresma stepped-up and scored Portugal’s fifth penalty to book their place in the semi-finals and a meeting with either Wales or Belgium in the last four of the competition.
Euro 16, Quarter Final 2
Wales and Belgium clash in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 in Marseille, with both sides eying up places in the last four of the competition.
The Dragons were rather fortunate to record a 1-0 victory Northern Ireland in the last-16. Wales thought they had opened the scoring on 19 minutes, but Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey was ruled to be offside and the effort was disallowed.
Wales did take the lead with just 15 minutes remaining, as Gareth McAuley struck out his leg and poked a Gareth Bale past his own ‘keeper. The effort was enough to put Chris Coleman’s side through to the last-eight of the competition at the first time of asking.
Real Madrid star Bale is the Welsh talisman, following his seven goals in qualifying and three in the group stages. No doubt he will be a big threat to the Belgian defence, as he looks to help his side to yet another historic win.
Wales will take heart from the fact they have not been beaten by Belgium in the last three meetings and took four points from a possible six against Marc Wilmots side in qualifying for this summer’s tournament.
The Dragons main concern could be at the back, as the game against Northern Ireland was the first clean sheet they have kept in their last eight international outings.
Belgium made it through to the quarter-finals with a 4-0 hammering of Hungary in the last-16. The Red Devils took the lead on ten minutes through a header from Toby Alderweireld, but had to wait until the last 12 minutes for the floodgates to open, as Michy Batshuayi, Eden Hazard and Yannick Carrasco all found the net.
Wilmots side have recorded well from an opening group game defeat by Italy to fire home eight goals in their last three outings. Their defensive record is pretty good as well, as they have now kept clean sheets in their last three outings at Euro 2016.
However that defensive solidarity could be hampered by the fact Thomas Vermaelen will be suspended and Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen has been ruled out through injury.
That means that Marc Wilmots is likely to have to use one of the youngsters in the shape of Jordan Lukaku or Jason Denayer, neither of whom have started a Euro 2016. The pair has just 11 international appearances between them, which could be a key factor in this clash.
Everton and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has enjoyed mixed fortunes in France, but will consider himself a contender for the golden boot having found the net twice in France so far. The highly-rated forward will be confident of adding to his tally against the Dragons.
Belgium head into the clash as favourites with the bookmakers, but will need all their talented individuals to turn-up. Wales and star player Bale will fancy their chances of getting through having seen the Red Devils defence depleted.