Portugal are aiming to reach their second European Championship final while Wales are entering unchartered waters having never made it this far into a major international tournament before.
Wales play Portugal in the semi-final of Euro 2016 in Lyon on July 6 at 3:00PM ET.
Portugal are aiming to reach the final again having been shocked on home turf in the 1-0 upset to Greece in 2004. Wales meanwhile are attempting to pull off a shock of their own by reaching their first ever final with another scalp in Lyon.
Real Madrid stars Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo will enter opposing dressing rooms in Lyon and their tussle will form a fascinating subplot.
Despite reaching the last-four, Portugal have had an unimpressive tournament so far and have failed to win a game in 90 minutes.
After drawing all three of their group games, Fernando Santos’ men squeezed past Croatia after extra-time in the last -16 after 117 dismal minutes of football that brought only two shots on goal. Viewers were put out of their misery when Ricardo Quaresma headed home from a few yards out.
The Besiktas winger was the hero once more in the quarter-final against Poland. He scored the winning penalty in a shootout after the scores were locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes.
The Portuguese men secured progression to the knockout stage in 3rd place in Group F after an end-to-end six-goal thriller with group winners Hungary. After Fernando Santos’ men had gone behind three times and equalized three time against the Hungarians, it appeared Seleccao das Quinas had done enough to set up a last-16 tie with England. As the players made their way off the pitch it emerged Iceland had scored a late winner meaning Portugal had finished 3rd.
Portugal have looked unsure of themselves in Euro 2016 so far. Nani gave his side the lead in their opening game against Iceland only to see it cancelled out in the second half by a far more impressive Iceland. After a 0-0 draw with Austria it has begun to look like that Cristiano Ronaldo is appearing in his own side show, not a very good one at that.
First, Portugal’s star man criticized Icelandic celebrations after the 1-1 draw and was then left red faced when he missed a penalty during the 0-0 stalemate with Austria in the game following. To add to growing annoyance, in the same game he also had a goal ruled out for off side. Ronaldo also made the headlines when in the run-up to the Hungary game he threw a reporters microphone into a lake when pursued for an interview.
Against Poland Fernando Santos’ side did well to claw themselves back into the game after conceding in the second minute to Robert Lewandowski. Moments before half-time however, 19-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches bagged his first goal for the national team in style to level the scores. Throughout the second half and in extra-time the game looked destined for penalties where neither side could assert themselves on the game to take control.
Chris Coleman’s Wales left tournament favorites Belgium in tatters by handing Marc Wilmot’s side an earth shattering 3-1 defeat in the quarter-final. In a game where De Rode Duivels took the lead after making their early pressure count, Wales overturned the deficit through goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes.
Skipper Williams equalized from an Aaron Ramsey corner before Hal Robson-Kanu scored a goal that will live long in the memory of Welsh football. The striker is currently unattached but will have plenty of offers waiting for him when he gets home after he sold a Cruyff-turn to the entire Belgium backline before slotting home to make it 2-1. Vokes’ flicked header wrapped up the victory from attacking wing-back Neil Taylor’s cross.
A 1-0 victory over fellow home nation Northern Ireland saw Wales through to the last-8. In a tense game in Paris Chris Coleman’s side ran out narrow winners after capitalizing on a Craig Cathcart own goal. Despite losing 2-1 to England after conceding in the dying moments of the game, Wales qualified for the last-16 in top spot in Group B.
Wales made sure of their progression with a resounding 3-0 victory over Russia. Gareth Bale opened scoring before a landmark goal from left-back Neil Taylor doubled their lead inside 20 minute. Gareth Bale eventually added the 3rd midway through the second-half.
In their opening game the Dragons gave themselves every opportunity of advancing to the knock out stage with a 2-1 win over Slovakia. Hal Robson-Kanu emerged from the bench to seal the winner late in the game after Garth Bale’s opener.
The two sides have met three times in all with Portugal winning two and Wales winning one. Portugal beat wales 3-2 in 1949 before the Welsh enacted revenge two years later with a 2-1 victory.
In the most recent encounter Portugal ran out 3-0 winners in a friendly held in Chaves in 2000. Luis Figo, Ricardo Sa Pinto and Capucho all made it onto the score sheet.
Wales will be without Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey through suspension. The midfielder is a huge miss after being arguably more influential even than Gareth Bale for Chris Coleman’s team in the win over Belgium. Leicester City’s Andy King is tipped to enter the side as a like for like replacement.
Ben Davies also misses out via suspension having picked up two bookings in their five matches so far. 32-year-old West Ham defender James Collins is in line to deputize.
Even with the two suspensions the Dragons are set to line up in the familiar 3-5-2 formation that has got them this far. In this system a large amount of responsibility naturally rests on the shoulders of Gareth Bale.
The only selection dilemma surrounds whether Hal Robson-Kanu will be handed another start. After his astounding goal against Belgium it looks likely but Sam Vokes and Johnny Williams are both poised to step up if called upon.
Wales boss Chris Coleman believes the competing Real Madrid team mates Bale and Ronaldo will be an equalizing factor and claims he will not be preparing his players in any specific way to deal with the threat of Portugal’s captain and talisman.
“We will have two of the best players on the planet who know each other very well,” Coleman said.
“There won’t be any love lost on the evening for both teams, not just Gareth and Cristiano, so any friendship will have to wait until after the game. It’s us against them and our approach won’t change.
“The message is the same because whatever we’ve been doing has got us where we are and concentrate on doing what we are good at.
“I don’t have to pull my defenders aside and say, ‘Look this team has got Cristiano Ronaldo.’ I never did that with Eden Hazard my players know all about him.
“And I could work my defenders for the next month, drilling them about Ronaldo, but he has the capability to do something special. That’s the danger, but we have got one in our team and it balances itself out.”
Wales are missing key players as yellow cards have caught up with individuals at this stage of the competition with Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey set to miss out for Wales after collecting cautions against Belgium
“You have got to feel for Ben and Aaron because they have done so much to get us where we are,” said Coleman.
“It’s the rules, but I thought Aaron’s yellow card was a harsh one. Eden Hazard picked the ball up and started bouncing it with his hand and didn’t get a yellow card. But he stopped us from playing. Coleman said their presence will be missed but he has full confidence in whoever he selects to take their place.
“I feel for Aaron and Ben because the level of football, intensity and emotion is so high that two yellow cards in five games to be suspended is a bit harsh. They are two outstanding players, but it’s not as if we haven’t been without them before and I have no worries about whoever steps in. I don’t worry about these players because they know the drill, what’s expected of them, and the game plan that won’t change.”
Predicted Line-up: Hennessey, Gunter, Collins, Williams, Chester, Taylor, King, Allen, Ledley, Bale, Robson-Kanu.
Portugal will be without William Carvalho, who was cautioned during the shootout victory over Poland in the quarter-finals. Danilo Pereira will deputize.
Key defender Pepe missed training on Monday with a hamstring problem is a slight doubt. He is expected to return to the side but the experienced Ricardo Carvalho is waiting to partner Fonte if needed.
Joao Moutinho is reported to be back at match fitness after appearing from the bench in the last few games and should receive a starting berth in a less flexible line up, Nani and Ronaldo once again partner up front.
In the win over Poland, Portugal switched from a 4-4-2 diamond to a 4-3-3 wing formation that swung the tie in their favor and allowed them to get back into the game before half time. With the use of wingers in a 4-3-3, it makes the case for Quaresma to start but that could be a sticking point for Santos. With Moutinho in the side though it makes a formation switch more difficult through having three central midfielder on the field.
Fernando Santos is aware his side haven’t impressed many people at Euro 2016 so far but aims to continue in the same way, reminding a press conference that it’s a results business and there are no prizes for playing attractive football and losing.
“Would I like us to be pretty? Yes,” said Santos after the Poland game. “But in between being pretty and being at home, or ugly and being here, I prefer to be ugly.”
“I’m confident about my work. We’ll approach the semis in the same way we’ve done so far,” he said. “Our feet are planted solidly on the ground. We’ll be up against a very good team but we’ll be prepared.”
Santos also revealed that he is buoyed by that fact he can call upon any of his 23-man squad and is impressed by the togetherness of his players. Furthermore, he is also taking partial responsibility of Renato Sanches’ development.
“It’s crucial at this stage to rotate the players. I want them to be responsible but also free to enjoy the game. They have a real unity about them.
“Renato Sanches played very well but I don’t think the Renato you see today is the once we’ll see in the future,” Santos said.
“He’s still growing and he has to take all his qualities and put them all on the pitch. It’s my job to help him do this. He reminds me of the great Portuguese player Coluna.”
Predicted Line-up: Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Eliseu; Danilo, Sanches, Mario, Moutinho; Ronaldo, Nani.