Portugal vs. Wales – 5 talking points from the first Euro semifinal

Published 07/07/2016, 3:32 AM EDT


The first Euro 2016 semifinal was a historic set-up in the beautiful city of Lyon; the dark horse Wales, pitched against a rather unimpressive, four time semifinalist Portugal. Both teams defeated teams who were expected to be playing this match. Belgium were obliterated by Wales and Poland lost out narrowly to Portugal. Some called it a battle between Ronaldo, the best player in the world and Bale, the most expensive darling of Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. But the match up was many things more than that. With both teams missing a few key players due to the one match suspension (following two yellow cards), things became more complicated. The Welsh were probably the most hurt as they missed out on having the explosive attacking edge of the in-form Aaron Ramsey.

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The match ended up being a strong Portuguese display, who completely took the match away from Wales, scoring 2 goals in 3 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo finally managed to shine, making fans forget his almost average performances in this tournament. He scored the first and helped establish the second goal. Nani looked sharp too. The Welsh, who had a great defensive display, really missed a link in the midfield. The game saw Gareth Bale end up as the only threat for the Portuguese. Here, we point out the 5 takeaways from the game:

 

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  1. Portugal had their game of the tournament:Portugal looked poor throughout the tournament. The fact that they did not register a single win in the group stage showed their woes. Even their victory in the quarter-finals was anything but convincing. But this match really saw them bring their A game and show their attack. Sanches, Danilo, Ronaldo, and Nani, all showed their quality and took the match away from the Welsh in a very convincing manner. Quaresma, the extra time goalscorer against the Croatians who has been a major player for Portugal, was not even called upon as a supersub in this match until the last five minutes, showing just how well the Portuguese attack fared against one of the best defenses in the tournament at a vital time. Portugal can even end up winning the Euro for the first time 12 years after they lost a Euro final.

 

2. Ronaldo and Nani were re-born in the 2nd half:

After a rather lethargic looking first-half performance, Ronaldo did come on his own during the second. He headed in a very familiar goal, leaping higher than any other player and getting the ball past Hennessey. He set up a beautiful ball for Nani who was active enough to tap in a perfect goal, taking Portugal’s lead to 2 goals in just 3 minutes. Renato Sanches too, was decent during the break offs for Portugal, but he was not at his best. Ronaldo and Nani grew more confident as the second half progressed, making various attempts at the goal and giving Hennessey a tough game. Danilo missed out on a third for Portugal during the 80th minute, courtesy a pass from Nani.

3. Wales were not as bad in defense as the scoreline suggests:

The Welsh center-backs Collins, Williams and Chester were a wall and gave Portugal one of the toughest shapes to break in the first half. Even the pace and flair of Ronaldo, Nani and Renato Sanches ended up registering 0 shots on target in the first half. Collins, the West Ham United defender, kept all the crosses aimed at Ronaldo away from him in the first half, and had no problems in replacing the more tenured Davis. Taylor and Gunter were seen more at the top of the pitch than behind, but were also promising in their wingback roles. But Ronaldo did break ahead of Chester to head home a beautifully worked small corner and cross in the 50th min to give Portugal the lead. Another lapse in defense finally let to Nani’s goal.

 

4. Wales missed Aaron Ramsey:

Aaron Ramsey missed out on the semi finals due to two yellow cards in the tournament, a decision challenged by the Welsh FA, but overruled by UEFA. Thus, Wales missed out on one of their best attackers. The attacking midfield of Wales looked poor and saw Gareth Bale push the attack alone from wide positions of the pitch. Ramsey is a vital player for Wales and helps link up attack and the defense giving Gareth Bale the independence to find better positions on the pitch. Jonny Williams, the Crystal Palace player was sent on to provide the attacking push that Ramsey brings, and to provide balls for Bale at higher positions of the pitch. But he was not up to the mark.

5. Renato Sanches is one for the future:

Renato Sanches had another good game for Portugal. The youngster, who’s just 18 years of age, has been an instrumental player for the Portuguese in this tournament. From scoring the equalizer against Poland and getting the man of the match in the quarters, to a very relaxed and complete midfield performance in the semis, Renato has shown why Bayern ended up spending 30 million Euros on him. He is a very effective shooter of the ball from a long range and has a ball distribution second to none. He looks like a superstar in the making and looks like the one to take up Ronaldo’s role once he hangs up his boots.

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Anurag Bahadur Singh

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