Portugal have secured a chance to banish the ghosts of Euro 2004 after they clinched a solid 2-0 win over Wales in Lyon, earlier today. The match was billed to be a tight one, with Wales going in as slight favourites.
But what we eventually witnessed during the game was completely different. Both sides were extremely conservative in the first half, with Portugal probably edging over Wales in terms of key chances that were created.
After the break though, the game exploded into life as Portugal amped up their pressure and eventually broke the deadlock through Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational header on the 50th minute mark.
The goal, which was clearly against the run of play, left the Welsh players shell-shocked. Predictably, Portugal took advantage of their nerves by banging in the second goal merely three minutes later, as Nani showed tremendous predatory instincts to find the back of the net, to make it 2-0 on the night.
Wales dumped their 3-5-2 formation and switched to a 4-4-2, as they increased their efforts to find two goals on the night. Gareth Bale did have three crucial chances that were saved by Rui Patricio, and despite their best efforts, Portugal eventually held on to book a spot in the final of the European Championships!
Here are three players that impressed tonight!
On a night Portugal really needed him to turn up, Cristiano Ronaldo did not disappoint. He was denied a clear penalty-kick in the first half, but the Real Madrid forward responded brilliantly after the break, by powering a header to break the deadlock on the 50th minute mark. The goal was so crucial because it forced Wales to be far more offensive, creating holes within the Welsh defence – something Nani eventually capitlized on to score Portugal’s second goal of the night.
He was closely marked for large portions of the game, but Nani managed to sneak and find space early in the second half to score Portugal’s second goal of the night. Nani has always been deemed inferior to Ronaldo, but tonight, his impact was as important, if not more, than Ronaldo’s contribution. The Real Madrid man broke the deadlock, but Nani was the one who forced Wales to completely abandon their usual 3-5-2 formation.
With William Carvalho absent, Danilo’s presence in Portugal’s midfield was always going to be scrutinized. Thankfully for Portugal, the defensive midfielder was absolutely brilliant. He sat deep and formed a protective membrane over Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves. Every single time Bale or Andy King attempted to charge forward on a solo run, Danilo was always present to close them down and put the Welsh offensive players under pressure. His discplined performance was ultimately a crucial factor in nullifying the threat posed by Wales.