Wales v Portugal could come down to duel between Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo

 
Trevor Steven
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Wales v Portugal - Semi Final: UEFA Euro 2016
Real Madrid team-mates Bale (left) and Ronaldo (right) could hold the key to Wednesday's semi-final (Source: Getty)

Wales have been enormously impressive already at Euro 2016 and have a real chance to create more history when they face Portugal in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale says they feel it’s their time, and that bullishness shows the depth of their belief. I don’t think we all realised just how confident Wales were in their game-plan and set-up, but it has performed tremendously well and all of their players – apart from Bale – have played to their absolute maximum.

The central axis of the team has been great: Ashley Williams’ performances in defence have been brilliant, Aaron Ramsey has had a dream tournament and Joe Allen has looked like the player Brendan Rodgers hoped he would be at Liverpool.

Read more: The most valuable teams and players at Euro 2016

Then you’ve got Bale, who I think still has more to show. He could have scored five in the 3-0 group stage win over Russia and one of the great surprises has been how dangerous in attack this Wales team has been; their 10 goals is second only to France, who have 11.

Credit has to lie at the feet of coach Chris Coleman, given that he endured poor results at the start of his reign and has turned this team into such a confident one.

Portugal have ground their way to the semis after suffering the same problems as England early on. They were resilient against Croatia in the last 16 but are yet to win in 90 minutes.

They have better individuals than Wales, though they haven’t shown it. Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Renato Sanches are all very talented but they have not ripped teams apart. Indeed, in coach Fernando Santos’s 12 competitive games they have never won by more than one goal.

Defender Pepe’s possible absence through injury would be a major boost to Wales, though they will fear that Cristiano Ronaldo might start taking more of the chances coming his way. You wouldn’t bet on it, mind.

I think we can take it as a stick-on that Wales won’t have any nerves. I expect they’ll see enough of the ball to keep that confidence, and that it will be an open game.

Both teams will look to get their key men – Bale and Ronaldo – involved as quickly as possible, and I think it could be the Wales star who gets on the ball more than his Real Madrid team-mate.

It’s very even between the teams, so it really might come down to which of those two is more influential. The other decisive factor could be how whether Wales can adjust to the suspension of Ramsey without losing their potency.

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