By Jake Davies
- Wales take on Portugal for a spot in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final
- The first competitive international semi-final for Wales
- Some important players miss out through suspension: Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies
LYON, FRANCE – A resilient and driven Wales side tackle Portugal with the prize of competing in the final of the European Championships.
It is the first ever showing at a European Championships semi-final for Wales, who are one of the major surprise packages at this international tournament. Their opponents Portugal have taken part in four previous semi-finals in their history, but have only progressed to the final once – the Euro 2004 campaign where they lost to Greece in the final.
Portugal and Wales both have their similarities. Both teams rely heavily on their star players: Cristiano Ronaldo is the big name in the Portuguese side, while Gareth Bale has guided Wales to unprecedented heights in the qualifying stages and now in the finals in France.
Incidentally, the two semi-finalists in this fixture struggle to impose their game on their opponents when both Bale and Ronaldo are disengaged in periods of a match.
Portugal are the only team of the four teams left that have not won a match in regulation time this tournament. In the group stage they qualified as one of the higher-placed 3rd placed qualifiers in Group F – where they drew all three of their matches. Following qualification to the knockout stages, they displayed their resilience in beating Croatia in extra time and then beat Poland in a dramatic penalty shoot out.
Due to picking up a suspension in the quarter-final against Belgium, Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies both miss the most important match of Wales’ history. Ramsey has been one of the shining lights of the tournament and has epitomised everything that Wales stands for during this tournament. He is a colossal loss for the team.
One of the telling contributing factors to who wins this monumental match on Wednesday will be the team that gets the best out of the lesser players. We may see the likes of Bale or Ronaldo produce something spectacular, but an inspired performance could settle this contest once and for all.
Fernando Santos‘ men will more than likely dictate the majority of the game as Wales are much more dangerous on the counter-attack, while soaking up and absorbing the pressure of their opponents.
The importance of Portugal’s Renato Sanches cannot be understated. Portugal will rely heavily on his intricate and decisive range of passing that can open up a buoyant Welsh defence.
This will be a tight match separated by small margins. Will Bale or Ronaldo steal the show for their respective countries? Or will a surprise candidate guide their country to a European Championships Final.
Wales v Portugal takes place in Lyon at 8pm BST.
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