The stage was set for a mouth-watering contest at Lyon, France; it was the first semi-finals and was pitted to be a battle between the two Real Madrid’s favourite forwards Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
This was the first time Portugal was aiming to get into Euro finals after 12 years whereas Wales were in a major tournament for the first time since 1957. The stakes were definitely high but the pressure was more on Portugal, even more so on Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a mediocre performance so far. Wales had surpassed their expectations and were on a dream run, reaching the semi-finals was already a bonus, but the welsh players wanted to play for their dreams to be fulfilled. This match had all the hallmarks of ‘a battle of the titans’.
A place in the finals was at stake for both teams. Therefore, both of these semi-finalists had everything to play for. Being the consistent team that Portugal are, there was no surprises in their starting line-up. Wales also started with their expected line-up.
As it happened
Losing the semi-finals to Spain on penalties four years ago was at the back of the Portugal players minds. This time, they did not want their campaign to end on the same note. Therefore, they started the game in an aggressive way. By the end of the first half, the scores were nil. Both teams had chances, but none of the teams could make inroads into their opponents’ quarters. Before this game, Fernando Santos’ side had not won a single game in this tournament within the stipulated 90 minutes. Immediately after the break, the magic moment arrived, and Ronaldo header put Portugal ahead. It was a spectacular scene as the Portugal fans were thrilled to bits as their best man delivered when it mattered the most. By the time the Wales fans could come to terms with the Ronaldo goal, they were in for another shock when Nani scored the second goal of the game, and this ended all hopes for Wales. Yes, it was a Cristiano Ronaldo assist to Nani.
Now that the match was comfortably in their bag, Portugal started to keep the ball possession and played very smart soccer till the end of the game. Gareth Bale and his team kept fighting till the last second of the game, but unfortunately, they had to settle being the second best team of the day. There was absolutely no shame in the way the Wales team performed as they tried their best to win the game.
Man of the Match
The broad shoulders of Ronaldo had a lot to prove in this game. He successfully carried the responsibilities of his country’s expectations with the superb goal and a selfless timely assist. Cristiano Ronaldo was announced the Man of the Match.
What the press reports had to say
The match had already created a huge build-up and hence the football article writers in the press were visibly excited. The media, both the electronic and the print media, were all praises for the Portugal team especially the goal scorers. Until late night, the fans kept the tweets coming in praising both individual and team performances. Wales were hailed for their stupendous performance throughout the tournament. All the players of the Wales team and especially Gareth Bale, were lauded in the press releases all over the world.
Portugal will eventually face the home nation France or Germany in the finals this Sunday.