POR 2 v 0 WAL – rather disappointingly, although not altogether surprising, the first semi final proved to be the worst game of the tournament so far at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. In each of their games, the Portuguese (who were yet to win a game in 90 minutes) have managed to slow the pace and bring the opposition down to their level, which unfortunately for the neutral is not very good at all. Their laborious style, reliance on captain Cristiano Ronaldo, and tedious tactics have won them very little praise or affection during the competition. Quite the opposite can be said of this Welsh side, whose dismantling of Belgium in the quarter final will go down as one of the most miraculous victories in European Championship football. One of the heroes of that performance was Arsenal‘s Aaron Ramsey, who missed this game through suspension and boy, did the Welsh struggle without his drive and composure in the centre of the park. The first half was instantly forgettable. The Dragons had much the better of the opening exchanges with Gareth Bale firing straight at Portuguese stopper Rui Patrício. Portugal looked like they were happily reclined on a lazy boy, with no intention to come out and play. At the start of the second half the Portuguese were given the opportunity they were waiting for. A simple set piece from the left hand side was not dealt with by the Welsh, the ball into the box was met by the head of Ronaldo, who had escaped the marking of James Chester, to emphatically put the A Seleção das Quinas ahead. Moments later it was 2-0. Ronaldo picked up the ball at the edge of the box and scuffed a horrible effort across goal, the opportunistic Nani sticking a toe out to divert the ball past a helpless Wayne Hennessey. Try as they could, the Welsh simply did not have the quality to get themselves back into the game. When you lose Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey and replace them with James Collins and Andy King, you are going to struggle. When that happens you need your Senior players to stand up, but that didn’t quite happen for the Welsh – Joe Allen gave the ball away time and time again, and Gareth Bale‘s end product wasn’t quite there. It’s a shame the game did not feature both teams strongest line-ups. It is also a shame that the referee was of a poor standard, allowing the Portuguese to get away with plenty of petty gamesmanship. I feel like the result would have been somewhat different. Portugal become the worst team in European international football to reach the final…and I am including Greece in 2004 in that statement.
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