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Wales V Portugal Preview: ‘Battle Of The Galacticos’

FILE PHOTO - (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF TWO IMAGES - Image numbers (L) 542986656 and 543947200) In this composite image a comparision has been made between Gareth Bale of Wales (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. Wales and Portugal meet in the EURO2016 semi final at the Stade des Lumieres on July 6, 2016 in Lyon,France. ***LEFT IMAGE*** PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 25: Gareth Bale of Wales in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 30: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Poland and Portugal at Stade Velodrome on June 30, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

As expected, the battle between Real Madrid superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale has dominated the build up to the biggest game in Welsh football history, as they take on Portugal in the first Euro 2016 semi final.

While there are other players on the pitch, it may well be the case that Bale or Ronaldo could prove the difference in the end.

Whatever the result, it has been an incredible tournament for Wales as they have surpassed all expectations and that win over the Belgium will live long in the memory.

There is more pressure on Portugal and Ronaldo to perform. Wales will feel they can beat Portugal and this Portugal team have traditionally fallen short at the semi final or quarter final stage. Ronaldo desperately craves international silverware and this may well be his best chance.

It is astonishing that Portugal have reached the semi finals without winning a game in 90 minutes. There is no doubt it is a flaw in the new system but Portugal will not care one jot at this stage. They will happily win the tournament without winning a game.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 30 : Portugal players celebrate during the penalty shoot out following the UEFA Euro 2016 Quarter Final match between Poland and Portugal at Stade Velodrome on June 30, 2016 in Marseille, France (Photo by Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Portugal have hardly set the world alight but they have proved to be a very tough nut to crack. They have defensively improved since the group stages and look a well organised side who are happy to keep the game tight. Pepe has been their key player in defence and while everyone has lauded the Italian defence, Pepe has been the best defender in this tournament and Portugal’s best player.

Renato Sanches has broken his way into the starting XI and the 18 year old looks an extraordinary talent from his passing range to his physical strength. Portugal have some other fine midfielders in Andre Gomes, Joao Mario and Moutinho, while Nani has also played a part.

However, they depend on Ronaldo to win them games and he has not been firing on all cylinders so far. That is why Portugal are only drawing games instead of winning them. Ronaldo is past his peak in terms of running at defenders but he is still the most deadly goalscorer in world football.

He has been unfairly criticised, in truth – his performances have not been particularly bad. Surprisingly, it is his finishing that has let him down apart from those two goals against Hungary.

Cristiano Ronaldo (POR), during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Poland and Portugal at Stade Velodrome on June 30, 2016 in Marseille, France.

Ronaldo has missed a ridiculous amount of chances, especially against Iceland and Austria in games Portugal should have really won. The fact that Ronaldo is still getting those chances is still a good sign. The problem seems to be that he is trying too hard and snatching at things, like he has a point to prove. Ronaldo’s insistance on shooting at goal with free kicks from way too long distances is another sign of this.

At the same time, there is the feeling that Ronaldo could find his scoring boots sooner rather than later. The semi final would be the perfect place for it, to fire his country to the final and lets be honest, in his own mind to out perform his Real Madrid team mate.

LILLE, FRANCE - JULY 1: Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates the victory following the UEFA Euro 2016 quarter final match between Wales and Belgium at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on July 1, 2016 in Lille, France. (Photo by Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Bale has been one of the players of the tournament and always performs in a Wales jersey. He is seen at Real Madrid as the heir to Ronaldo’s crown. Bale is one of the best players in the world and he may soon overtake Ronaldo as the key man at the Bernabeu, but he will never reach peak Ronaldo level.

That is not an insult, Ronaldo will go down as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game and even the best goalscorer of all time. It is a near impossible standard to reach.

Ronaldo may just have one more day in the sun and fire Portugal to a final meeting with France or Germany.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.