Portugal vs Wales Preview: Two pre-tournament outsiders go head-to-head for a place in Euro 2016 final

Both sides are represented by two of the world's greatest players, but neither would have expected to get this far in the tournament

Portugal vs Wales Preview: Two pre-tournament outsiders go head-to-head for a place in Euro 2016 final
Photo: VAVEL UK

The first of the two Euro 2016 semi-finals commences on Wednesday night with Portugal taking on home nation Wales in Lyon.

Both sides have exceeded expectations by reaching the final four and, of course, the winner of the game will play either Germany or France in the final, which will be played at the Stade de France on 10 July.

The game will be billed as the clash of two of the world’s greatest players, in Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Wales’ Gareth Bale, but both sides have proved that they do not rely on their respective Real Madrid stars.

Wales are the only home nation remaining in the competition, having seen England, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland defeated in the last 16 – the latter of whom they actually beat to set up a quarter-final with Belgium.

Chris Coleman’s side have been credited for their excellent team work, but the Dragons should be congratulated on many other aspects of their performance over the course of the tournament, such as their ability to create chances, their defensive solidity and their sense of fearlessness.

On the other hand, Portugal have flattered to deceive but, rather remarkably, they find themselves just a win away from their first European Championship final since their defeat to Greece in 2004. Ronaldo’s misfiring form has epitomised the performance of his whole side, who, amazingly, are still yet to win a game over 90 minutes across the whole tournament.

How have each side reached the semi-final?

Portugal drew all three of their matches in Group F – against Iceland, Hungary and Austria – and took advantage of UEFA’s introduction of the best third-placed sides rule, meaning they advanced to the last 16. A 117th-minute Ricardo Quaresma goal saw off Croatia in a fairly forgettable contest, in which Ronaldo’s shot which Quaresma headed in the rebound from was portugal’s first shot on target.

Fernando Santos’ side finally improved in the quarter-final tie with Poland. Having fallen behind early on courtesy of Robert Lewandowski’s first goal of the tournament, 18-year-old wonderkid Renato Sanches fired home a wonderful equaliser just before half-time. Extra-time was dull, with both sides seemingly settling for penalties – of which Portugal won 5-3.

Wales won Group B thanks to memorable victories over Russia and Slovakia, although a 2-1 defeat to England is one of their only low points of the tournament so far.

A Gareth McAuley own goal sent Wales through to the first major international quarter-final since 1958, and this time they managed to go one better than they did that year – convincingly beating a star-studded, although under-performing, Belgium by three goals to one.

The game against the Red Devils really announced Wales onto the scene of international football. Prior to the tournament, outsiders branded Wales a ‘one-man team’, pointing towards Bale as their only credible talent. However, Coleman’s side were tremendous and did not need to rely on Bale, who ironically didn’t play particularly well.

Wales were expected to rely heavily on Bale, but have done quite the opposite | Photo: Getty images
Wales were expected to rely heavily on Bale, but have done quite the opposite | Photo: Getty images

Team news

Portugal will be without William Carvalho, who was cautioned during the quarter-final victory over Poland, while Wales will be without Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Both players were handed their second bookings of the tournament against Belgium, earning them suspensions.

James Collins is expected to come into the three-man central defensive line in place of Davies, while Andy King or Jonathan Williams are the potential candidates to replace Ramsey.

Possible line-ups

Portugal: Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Eliseu, Danilo, Sanches, Mario, Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani.

Wales: Hennessey, Gunter, Collins, A. Williams, Chester, Taylor, King, Allen, Ledley, Bale, Robson-Kanu.