Wales manager Chris Coleman has vowed that his team will not allow Portugal to cheat them out of a first ever appearance in the final of a major tournament.
Portugal stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe – an injury doubt for Wednesday's Euro 2016 semi-final in Lyon – have both faced accusations of feigning injury, but Coleman insisted Wales would be prepared for whatever Portugal might offer, and hinted that his own team were not too proud to bend the rules if needed.
“Our boys will know about the opposition. We do our homework on every team. We know their players individually and collectively. We know what to expect,” he said.
Iceland co-manager Lars Lagerback last month called Ronaldo “one of the best players in the world, but also an excellent actor” and referred to his Real Madrid and Portugal team-mate Pepe as “someone who could be in Hollywood”.
England were left with deep grievances after their 2006 World Cup quarter-final with Portugal, in which Ronaldo infamously lobbied for his then-Manchester United colleague Wayne Rooney to be sent off.
Ronaldo and the other player involved in that flashpoint, Ricardo Carvalho, remain prominent figures for Portugal, who are marshalled by Pepe, a player associated as much with football’s dark arts as for his uncompromising defending.
“At this level games are decided in a second, a turnover, the ball changes hands, somebody makes the wrong decision. You call it gamesmanship, but sometimes it is being streetwise at this level,” added Coleman.
“We have got better at that. We used to be far too honest. I would look at what players used to do to us, and us in the same situations, and we would be miles behind.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty, or even ugly, and you can see it as negative. But anything you need to do to stay in the game, do it. It’s streetwise, football smart. We have got a lot better at that in the last few years.”
Bale and Wales the perfect team
Coleman used the eve of the most significant match in Wales’s footballing history to highlight their team ethic – and in particular that of Bale, the world’s most expensive player.
“You are either a team player or you are not,” he said. “Being comfortable in a team environment; being happy to work to a certain type of ethic; being with a bunch of people that enjoy being together; enjoy working hard and enjoy putting themselves out there, knowing that they are not guaranteed anything even if they do give their best, but they just want to do it because they are doing it for their country; you can’t pretend at that – you are either like that or you are not. Bale is exactly like that, just like the rest of the lads.”
Ronaldo "a great individual"
The former Fulham boss, who must cope without the suspended Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies, also praised Ronaldo, who has two goals at this summer’s tournament to Bale’s three.
“I remember him at United when I was at Fulham,” Coleman added. “He scored in the last minute in one game to win, he produced something out of ordinary. You need great individuals. They’ve got one and we’ve got one.”