The first semi-final of the Euro 2016 championships saw Portugal book their place in Sunday’s final with a 2-0 victory over surprise package Wales who will go home heroes in the country.
The first half produced very little by the way of goalmouth action. Wales were slightly fortunate not to concede a penalty kick, as James Collins grappled Cristiano Ronaldo to the ground. At the other end Real Madrid star Gareth Bale fired over the bar, before the forward fired straight at Portuguese ‘keeper Rui Patricio.
Bale’s club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo had his first sight of goal just before half-time, heading over at the far post when challenged by James Chester.
Portugal came out the stronger in the second half and took the lead on 50 minutes. Raphael Guerreiro picked-up the ball from a short corner and found Ronaldo who produced a powerful header from inside the area that beat Wayne Hennessey in the Welsh goal.
The Selecao doubled their lead just three minutes later. Ronaldo miss-hit an effort from 25 yards out and Nani stuck his foot out to divert the ball into the net from close range.
Portugal had chances to increase their lead, as Joao Mario fired an effort past the near post and Hennessy saved a Jose Fonte header. Wales hardly threatened Portugal’s goal, but Bale produced two long-range efforts that were saved by Rui Patricio.
Hennessey kept out an effort from Danilo and Ronaldo fired wide, as the Selecao comfortably made secured their place in Sunday’s final. Both Ronaldo and Nani have the added target of the golden boot, with both players currently on three goals apiece in France.
Euro 2016 has reached the semi-final stages with the first last-four clash taking place on Wednesday night, as Portugal goes head-to-head with Wales in Lyon.
Portugal have failed to win any of their games in France in normal time, but have somehow made it to the last four of the competition. Last time out the Selecao needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Poland, after the game finished in a 1-1 draw in normal and extra-time.
Poland got off to the perfect start in that clash with Robert Lewandowski scoring after just two minutes. The lead lasted until 33 minutes when highly-rated youngster Renato Sanches struck found the net with a deflected effort from the edge of the area.
Mercurial winger Ricardo Quaresma was the hero in penalty shoot-out, after Dortmund winger Jakub Blaszczykowski had missed from the penalty spot.
Fernando Santos’ team have disappointed in France, especially star player Cristiano Ronaldo whose two goals in the competition came in the 3-3 draw with Hungary. The Selecao have now won just one of their last seven outings in 90 minutes.
Ronaldo will go head-to-head with Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale, with both players determined to come out on top and make Sunday’s final in Paris.
Portugal does have the edge over Wales in the head-to-head between these two teams, winning two of the three meetings between the two teams. The last meeting between the pair was 16 years ago in a friendly match that finished in a 3-0 win for Portugal.
The Selecao heads into this game without the suspended William Carvalho, who is likely to be replaced by Danilo. Real Madrid centre-back Pepe is a doubt and if he fails to recover in time is likely to be replaced by veteran Ricardo Carvalho.
European Championships debutants Wales have been one of the competition’s surprise packages and produced a superb 3-1 win over Belgium in the quarter-finals.
The Red Devils started the game in a strong manner and took the lead through highly-rated midfielder Radja Nainggolan. However, Welsh captain Ashley Williams equalised, before goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and substitute Sam Vokes in the second half sealed a historic victory for Chris Coleman’s team.
The Dragons have won four of their five games in the competition and only host nation France has scored more goals in their five tournament games.
Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is no doubt Wales’ star player and he has scored three times in France. The former-Tottenham star will be looking to help his team reach the final and in the process get the better of Los Blancos teammate Ronaldo.
Wales have fielded a relatively consistent team throughout Euro 2016. However, Wales boss Chris Coleman will have to make at least two changes to his team for this clash, as both Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey picked-up their second yellow cards of the campaign against Belgium, so are both suspended. Ramsey will particularly be missed as he has produced four assists in France so far.
West Ham’s experienced centre-back James Collins is likely to replace Davies, while Andy King and Jonathan Williams are in contention to replace the influential Ramsey in midfield.
This game will be billed as Cristiano Ronaldo v Gareth Bale, because both are regarded as their teams most high-profile individuals. However, it is far more than that with both teams desperate to make it to Sunday’s final.
Wales will be hoping that they will not miss their two suspended players too much, while Portugal will be looking for Ronaldo to rediscover his best form, after some disappointing displays from the prolific forward.
The European Championships takes a breath for a few days, as Portugal, Wales, France and Germany get ready to do battle for a place in Sunday’s final in Paris.
The break lets us take stock of what has previously happened at the competition. Just like every big international tournament Euro 2016 has saw teams perform way beyond expectations. Here we look at a few of the surprise packages of the European Championships:
There was simply no other place to start when talking about surprise packages. The Nordic nation is the smallest ever to qualify for the European Championships, yet they made it to the last-eight of the competition, only for their brave journey to be ended with a 5-2 hammering against host nation France on Sunday night.
Even in that heavy defeat against Les Bleus, they kept going and never stopped fighting for their country’s pride. Despite that heavy defeat the team should be immensely proud of their work in France.
The Nordic nation went unbeaten in the group stages, drawing with Portugal and Hungary, before winning their last group game against Austria with a dramatic late winner in stoppage-time.
There was an even bigger achievement ahead though, as Lagerback’s team achieved arguably their biggest ever international victory beating England 2-1 in the quarter-finals. They went into the clash as major underdogs and were written-off by most neutrals.
However they produced a stellar performance to see off a rather inept Three Lions team to seal a famous win and set-up a quarter-final with France.
Veteran boss Lars Lagerback can be proud of his team’s achievements in France and will now leave his position and hand over sole control of the side to part-time dentist Hallgrimsson, who has been his joint-boss at Euro 2016.
The team can now look forward to challenging for a place at World 2018 in Russia, despite being drawn in a difficult group.
The Dragons were written-off by many before the campaign even started and some claimed that they would not even get out of a group containing England, Slovakia and Russia. Not only did they make the knockout stages, but they topped the group.
Impressive wins over Slovakia and Russia saw them through to the last-16 as group winners. The Dragons were slightly fortune against Northern Ireland in the last-16, as Gareth McAuley own goal meant Chris Coleman’s side made it to the last-8.
In the quarter-finals, again they were written-off as they faced Belgium, who are second in the world rankings. A fantastic display full of passion, pride and ability saw Chris Coleman’s side stun the highly-rated Belgians and record a 3-1 victory.
There could be more yet to come though, as Coleman’s side face Portugal on Wednesday in the semi-finals. The Dragons have already achieved so much in France and it would be even more incredible if they could go all the way at Euro 2016.
Precedents have been set at previous European Championships of the likes of Denmark and Greece winning the trophy against all odds, so it is not completely out of the question that Gareth Bale and Co could go all the way this time around.
Hungary’s achievement was slightly more modest than that of Iceland or Wales, but their performance at the tournament was still surprising. Bernd Storck’s team arrived in France regarded as one of the weakest teams in the competition.
However, they went unbeaten in the group stages beating Austria, and then drew with both Iceland and Portugal. In the end Storck’s team topped their tough group to set up a last-16 meeting with Belgium, who recorded a 4-0 win.
The scoreline was rather misleading though, as Hungary was still in the game until the 78th minute, before the floodgates opened. Despite the manner of their tournament exit, the Hungary players and fans should be immensely proud of their team.
They proved the doubters wrong by making it out of the group stages and proved that they were in no way the weakest team in France, as some critics claimed they were prior to the competition.