The two sides meet in what is an unexpected Semi-Final clash and it’s a chance they must seize with both hands…
If we told you at the start of the tournament that Portugal and Wales would be involved in a last four clash at Euro 2016 you would probably laugh us off and have good reason to do so. One arguably world football’s biggest perennial under-achievers, the other, tournament debutants. There is no doubt the meeting of these two sides at this juncture has caught many by surprise. But, now that they find themselves in this privileged position, it is an opportunity that they must capitalize on.
Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have been instrumental to the fortunes of their respective sides. Bale has provided the essential moments of magic at key times in games. But, as arguably the only superstar in the Welsh squad he has also blended in well with the rest of the group. Ronaldo hasn’t been his usual self in the last couple of matches. But, it was his all-important brace in the 3-3 draw against Hungary on Matchday 3 that helped Portugal sneak into the last 16. Both these players thrive on the big occasion and they will be looking to do a start-turn to give their team an edge in what is likely to be a game of fine margins.
Throughout the competition Wales have embodied their motto ‘Together Stronger’ while the Portuguese have plenty of individual brilliance running through their ranks. The Welsh have not been shy to commit equal numbers in attack and defence playing an attractive yet direct style of football. On the other hand, Fernando Santos has been a lot more cautious with the use of his creative resources, resorting to a tight approach and a compact shape that relies on wing play and pacey counter-attacks. Although both teams would like to grab the game by the scruff of its neck the magnitude of the prize riding on it could make it a cagey affair.
Portugal will be without the suspended William Carvalho while Wales also have Ben Davies and influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey missing for the same reason.
Man To Watch:
Khel Now picked Renato Sanches as one of the young stars likely to shine in France and though he had a quite time in the group games, the new Bayern Munich acquisition has sparkled in the knockout rounds. With all the spotlight on both Ronaldo and Bale this is the perfect game for the midfielder to make his presence felt.
The only thing that remains for Ronaldo to achieve is to win a major honour with his country. It is clear from his conduct on the pitch that that infamous defeat on home soil against Greece in 2004 still continues to burn a hole in him. Truth be told, Portugal themselves have never really recovered from it. Given their recent form, it is unlikely either the Real star or his team will have a better opportunity to earn a shot at redemption than the one that will present itself tonight, For their opponents, history has already been made, the unthinkable achieved and whilst there is nothing to be lost, this is an opportunity to gain so much more. It all provides for what should be a gripping night’s football.
Preview by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.