Portugal vs Wales – Euro 2016 Semi-Final Preview

Portugal have failed to win a game in 90 minutes en route to reaching the last four of Euro 2016, and now only they stand in the way of a Wales side that is on the cusp on sensationally sealing a place in the final.

This will be a lot more than just a battle between the world’s two most expensive footballers, Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, but a meeting of two sides intent on defying the odds and becoming kings of Europe. And it has to be said that Wales are the favourites, based on their performance in the tournament so far.

Even in booking a quarter-final date with Belgium had Wales already achieved something special at Euro 2016, but the manner in which they came from behind to defeat the highest ranked team in the competition was nothing short of electrifying, and it was especially impressive considering that Bale was rarely at the centre of the action.

The vibes emanating from this Welsh team are arguably unlike anything ever seen from a home nation at a major finals, and the seemingly unquenchable team spirit looks capable of propelling them all the way. Their clinical edge in front of goal just proved too much for Belgium, as the relatively unheralded Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes completely upstaged the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard.

The only potential obstacle here is handling the expectancy created by that performance and result, while the usual task for any team preparing to face Portugal is working out a way to contain Ronaldo, just as opposing boss Fernando Santos will be formulating a plan to starve Bale of service.

One setback for Wales is the suspensions they have to contend with, as key performer Aaron Ramsey and ever-present defender Ben Davies both picked up their second yellow cards of the competition on Friday. As for Portugal, William Carvalho will be absent after a cynical booking against Poland.

That opening quarter-final match was another one which showed that Portugal are becoming the masters of sneaking through by the narrowest of margins, expertly converting all five penalties in the shootout that resulted from the 1-1 draw.

After suffering the worst possible start courtesy of going behind inside two minutes, they came back into it and ended up edging a fairly even encounter, with youngster Renato Sanches vindicating his inclusion in the starting XI by netting the equaliser.

Surely they must improve here, as sooner or later their luck will run out. Reaching this stage in the manner that they have is a rather dubious honour, but it will be interesting to see how Portugal approach this one given that Wales are at their most effective while playing on the break.

Reaching the final would be a significant achievement for a side which had limited expectations coming into Euro 2016, and it would be the first time they have managed to do so on foreign soil. However, the Wales juggernaut will take some stopping and this incredibly patriotic nation is just waiting to embrace the prospect of a trip to the Stade de France. It is the chance of a lifetime.

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