After last weekend’s matches we now know the line-up for the Euro 2016 semi-finals. This evening (Wednesday 6 July) at 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT) Wales play Portugal, then tomorrow evening (Thursday 7 July) the hosts France take on the World champions Germany.Wales’ match against Portugal is in Lyon, whilst the second semi-final is in Marseille. We in Wales are incredulous that we’ve got to the semi-finals, but we are also grateful to be facing Portugal and not France or Germany.
Of the teams to reach the semi-finals, Portugal have been by far the least impressive. They qualified 3rd in their group with three drawn matches. Then, in the round of 16, they only beat Croatia 1-0 in extra time. In the quarter finals they beat Poland, but this time only on penalties with it being 1-1 after extra time.
Of course, any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo in its ranks cannot be written off. With his brilliance he can turn a game around in a flash. But the contrast with Gareth Bale is interesting. Both play for Real Madrid, both are the stars of their teams, but there the similarities end. Bale is a team player, down to earth and a very popular member of the squad. The very opposite of a prima donna. Ronaldo is petulant, greedy and, one gets the impression, does not consider himself ‘one of the lads’. He is like a preening peacock; if he weren’t so brilliant he would surely be universally disliked.
Wales are, of course, riding on a wave of euphoria. The team will be bursting with confidence after our thrilling 3-1 win against Belgium on Friday evening. But, I am also confident that we will not take Portugal for granted. Chris Coleman is far too wily a coach to allow his team to do that. We will be missing midfielder Aaron Ramsey and defender Ben Davies, both suspended after picking up second yellow cards in the match against Belgium. But, we have such a structure and game plan, which the team all believe in, that I am sure their replacements will step up admirably to to the high standard Ramsey and Davies have set.
It is going to be a very tense countdown to the big match in Wales! Dere ‘mlaen Cymru!!! (come on Wales!!!)