This bracket was always going to give a chance to many sides to get deep into the competition. Wales and Portugal have benefited from avoiding the likes of Italy, Spain, Germany and France. Although that isn’t to take away from the achievements of both nations, who will firmly believe that they have a chance of lifting the European Championships next weekend. They will both take great confidence from the triumphs of Greece and Denmark in this competition. Neither side is favourite going into this match, and will both fancy their chances of making the final on Sunday.
Wales have been an example to every nation as they have managed to get success out of their golden generation. England, Belgium and Ivory Coast have all failed in the past of getting the best out of a talented group of players, but Wales have succeeded enormously this summer. They have no expectations of repeating this success every two years, and are just enjoying the ride in France. That isn’t to say that they don’t have a chance of lifting the trophy on Sunday, because they do. They have a group of talented individuals, and their tactics perfectly suit the players that they have available to them. Chris Coleman has done a superb job and deserves all the credit coming his way.
Although Portugal have been criticised for not winning a game at this tournament, they have been solid, as would be expected under Fernando Santos. The Portuguese manager led Greece to the final 16 of the World Cup in 2014, and has continued to show that he is an effective manager in the international game. Portugal have done what is required to get to this stage and with the players available to them, they will be confident of making the final of the championships. They have one of the best players in the world available to them in Cristiano Ronaldo, who has yet to hit his peak in this tournament. Santos and the rest of Portugal will be hoping that Ronaldo peaks at the right time, starting on Wednesday.
These two sides haven’t faced each other a lot in recent times, with their last meeting coming in 2000. Portugal won on that occasion in a friendly match preceding Euro 2000. The fact that these two sides aren’t that well known to each other could make for a classic, with both sides possessing more attacking talent than they do at the back. This is being billed as Cristiano Ronaldo vs Gareth Bale, with many people suggesting that it symbolises the passing of the batten from Ronaldo to Bale. The Portuguese forward will have other ideas and will want to outshine his club team-mate on Wednesday.
Only Ronaldo (36) has had more shots than Bale at this tournament. The Welshman has attempted 21 shots.
Portugal are the first side to progress to the European Championship semi final without winning a match in 90 minutes.
Wales have shown that they are far more than just a one-man team this summer, but Gareth Bale is still a huge threat for those that face the Red Dragons. During the last 12 months, Bale has cemented his place at the very top of the game, having lifted the Champions League and guided his unfancied country to the European Championship semi final. He has led by example and played a vital part for Wales, with three crucial goals in qualifying. He is one of the few players in the Wales squad that can make something happen from nothing and his moment of magic in the round of 16 led them into the quarter final. Although he didn’t play as big a role in the quarter final, he was still working hard and his presence gives more space to Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu. On Wednesday, he will be vital to his sides chances, as they will be without Aaron Ramsey. Bale may need to drop deeper and try to dictate the play, but he is capable of doing that. Wales need a performance from their star player if they are to write another chapter in this incredible story.
After seeing his long term rival Lionel Messi retire from international football after failing to win a major trophy with Argentina, Ronaldo will be hungry to win this tournament. He firstly needs to overcome Wales, led by Gareth Bale, who is beginning to become a threat to Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar has been inconsistent at this tournament, and many will be thinking that he is on the decline. He needs to put any thoughts like that to bed with a match-winning display on Wednesday. Ronaldo has played a lot of football and was rushed back for the Champions League final, and is probably still suffering with a knock. However, champions come to the fore when it matters and there is no doubting Ronaldo’s winning mentality. Portugal would have taken a semi final with Wales at the start of the tournament, and will be confident of getting past them. They need Ronaldo at his best though, and if he is, there is only one winner.
Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies are both missing the match, due to the accumulation of yellow cards rule. James Collins and Jonny Williams are the players expected to deputise. Hal Robson-Kanu is also expected to start after a great performance against Belgium.
Portugal will definitely be missing William Carvalho through suspension, with Danilo expected to come in for the Sporting midfielder. Pepe is a doubt with a thigh injury, but he is expected to be fit in time for the match.
Wales have had an extraordinary tournament so far and have fully deserved their quarter final place. The suspensions to Ramsey and Davies will be a blow to the side, as both have had great tournaments so far. They have a great chance heading into this match with many placing them as favourites to progress. Although Portugal haven’t been great, they still possess a lot of star quality and will be confident of hitting their stride against Wales. Unfortunately for Wales, I expect Portugal to come through this match and progress in extra time. Aaron Ramsey being suspended will be a huge blow and I’m not convinced that they have a suitable replacement.
Wales 1-2 Portugal (AET)