Euro 2016 round up: Portugal 2 Wales 0 - and what the result means

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates at the end of the game.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates at the end of the game.PHOTO: REUTERS

This was billed as a battle between two Real Madrid team-mates - Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal versus Gareth Bale of Wales.

But as far as individual duels are concerned, Ronaldo has only ever really been compared with one man: Lionel Messi.

He now has a chance to do what the Argentina and Barcelona superstar has never done - lead his country to a major international honour. And he had everything to do with Portugal earning their place in Sunday's final.

Ronaldo opened the scoring at the Stade de Lyon in the 50th minute, outjumping James Chester to head Raphael Guerreiro's cross past Wayne Hennessey. Three minutes later, Ronaldo's cross-shot was redirected into the net by Nani.

Ronaldo has been in a European Championship title decider before. As a 19-year-old, he left the Lisbon pitch in tears as unfancied Greece completed their 2004 fairytale triumph.

Portugal will not be on home soil this time. But they will have an older, better, and more experienced Ronaldo. Already 31 years old, this represents the forward's best chance of silverware with the Selecao.

His arch rival Messi last week announced his retirement from international football after a third runners-up finish at the Copa America with Argentina. The 29-year-old also experienced disappointment in the final of the 2014 World Cup.

 

Messi, a record five-time world player of the year, remains widely regarded as the best footballer on the planet. It is a label Ronaldo craves. On Sunday, he can take a shot at getting one over on his adversary.

Match highlights

- In the 9th minute, James Collins headed a cross away. Ronaldo appealed for a penalty after the defender had his arms locked around the forward. Nothing given.

- Seven minutes later, Joao Mario played a one-two with Ronaldo. Mario took a shot on the right side of the box but dragged the effort wide.

- In the 18th minute, Bale won a corner. Joe Ledley set up Bale with a low pass but the forward, who peeled away from the six-yard box, shot high and wide.

- Four minutes later, Bale picked the ball inside his own half. He drove forwards, going past three Portugal players. But at the end of a 50-yard yard, he shot straight at Rui Patricio.

- In the 44th minute, Adrien Silva's cross to the far post was met by Ronaldo. But he headed over the bar.

- Five minutes into the second half, King headed a free kick behind for a corner, which was taken short. Guerreiro whipped a cross into the box and Ronaldo headed home.

- In the 53rd minute, Portugal doubled their lead. Ronaldo's cross-shot from the edge of the box was diverted into the net by Nani.

- In the 65th minute, Hennessey failed to deal with Nani's shot from outside the box. Mario followed up but put the ball wide when all he had to do was pass the ball into the net. 

- In the 78th minute, Danilo's shot from 10 yards out squirmed underneath Hennessey's body. But the goalkeeper recovered to save on the goal-line.

- In the 80th minute, Bale's swerving shot from long range was pushed away by Patricio.

The talking point

Can Wales build on their recent success? While their Euro 2016 campaign has ended, Wales can be proud of finishing among the top four. They were the first debutants since Sweden in 1992 to top their group and as well as make the semi-finals.

With their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign starting against Austria in September, they can now focus on getting back onto football's greatest stage for the first time since 1958. The Dragons are top seeds in their group, which also includes Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Moldova and Georgia.

 

Man of the Match

Ronaldo. The Portugal captain came up huge for his country when it mattered again. Just like he did at this stadium against Hungary (3-3) in the group stage, Ronaldo was directly involved in all of Portugal's goals.

He leapt like a salmon to put the Selecao in front, before setting up Nani. Ronaldo - the first to feature in three Euro semi-finals - has also become the only player with three or more goals in two Euro tournaments.

What the result means

Portugal are one win away from lifting their first major tournament title. Fernando Santos' men will face either world champions Germany or hosts France in the final.

Unlike their first Euro final against Greece, Portugal will go to the Stade de France in Paris as the underdogs.

Key statistic

Ronaldo has joined France's Michel Platini atop the tournament's all-time scoring chart. Both have nine goals.

What they said

Ronaldo: "We are in the final again. This time I want to cry tears of joy."

Nani on the final: "We cannot pick and choose our opponent. We have to believe in ourselves and play our best."

Bale: ""It is a difficult one to analyse now but we're obviously disappointed. We've got to be proud first and foremost. We've given everything on the pitch, off the pitch."