It was a cagey first half to say the least. Although it was a very intriguing tactical battle with Wales arguably facing their toughest challenge yet, keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet. It was noticeable that the defence of Wales was incredibly compact not allowing any of the tricky Portuguese players any time or space on the ball. This resulted in the wide players and midfield players of Portugal lumping long balls into the box for Ronaldo to get on the end of. It was a job well done for Wales in terms of their plan for dealing with the threats of Portugal. Wales will also have been pleased that the loss of Ben Davies to suspension wasn’t having any impact with James Collins showing to be an excellent stand in.
It was a half of very few chances. The best move from either team was when Gareth Bale picked up the ball and surged forward on a 40 yard run leaving Portugal left back Raphael Guerriero chasing his shadow but Bale couldn’t get enough power on the shot and it was hit straight at Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal. Portugal were frankly terrible in the first half with a noticeable lack of movement and pace in their play allowing Wales to keep their shape incredibly well. Wales were clearly missing Aaron Ramsey who was serving a suspension. Ramsey has proved to be the link between the midfield and forward players and has been Wales’ best player at Euro 2016. Without him Wales were unable to get into their usual quick incisive attacking play.
Wales started the second half in a sloppy manner and were soon punished. A short corner resulted in Guerriero whipping the ball into the box for Cristiano Ronaldo to rise above his man and hang in the air to smash the header past Wayne Hennesey in the Wales goal. An early set back for the Welsh who faced an upward task. Wales soon found themselves with a mountain to climb after Ronaldo sliced a shot but it fell to Nani who slotted it past Hennesey to make it 2-0 to Portugal. Nani now has 3 goals and 2 assists at Euro 2016, a very good tournament for Nani who when on form can be unplayable.
In search for a goal Chris Coleman rolled the dice and made all 3 changes by the 65 minute mark. Wales huffed and puffed but just couldn’t get anything going in the final third. As well as that they kept making sloppy mistakes in particular Joe Allen who was really poor in this game. Clearly they were missing Aaron Ramsey and couldn’t fill that void regardless of what Chris Coleman did to change things. Which also brings into question as to why UEFA insist on leaving the yellow card suspension amnesty in place until the semi final stage of the competition. Wales simply looked disjointed and were lacking the usual vigour they play with. There will be a sense of disappointment from a Welsh point of view with this performance because Portugal are nothing special and it was a massive shock they were even in the semi finals because of how poor they have been at Euro 2016.
Of course it’s been an incredible achievement from Wales to reach the semi finals. Many said Wales would not even get out of the group but together they proved everyone wrong and got further than the abysmal England. The performance against Belgium was the best performance from any team at Euro 2016 in a game so far. Wales have lit up the competition with their performances and allowed other nations the hope that they to can dare to dream and do something special. This Welsh team have done their country proud and will want to carry this momentum into the World Cup qualifiers that start in September and will look to get to the 2018 World Cup together and stronger.