Portugal prepare for semi-final clash against Wales

Portugal prepare for semi-final clash against Wales

Portugal prepare for semi-final clash against Wales

Written by Staff Writer

05 Jul, 2016 | 4:48 pm

Portugal were back on their training ground in Marcoussis on Tuesday (July 5), just hours before they travel to Lyon on the eve of their semi-final clash with Wales.

Led by team captain Cristiano Ronaldo, the players went through their training with coach Fernando Santos and his technical team. Santos’ team have failed to inspire many people with their performances, yet they find themselves in the last four.

Underdogs Iceland and Wales have captured the imagination of the public while Antonio Conte’s Italy have been acclaimed for their sparkling wins over Spain and Belgium. Portugal, on the other hand, have reached the semi-finals of the competition for the fourth time in the last five attempts without winning a game inside 90 minutes and without ever playing especially well.

Their second-round match against Croatia, which they won in the dying minutes of extra time, was criticised as one of the worst of the tournament. On Monday (July 4), midfielder Andre Gomes told reporters he was expecting a tough contest against Wales and predicted another close match for the Portuguese.

The semi-final pits Ronaldo against his Real Madrid team mate, Gareth Bale who has been instrumental for Wales. The world’s two most expensive players take different approaches to their leadership role. While Bale is widely acclaimed as an inspiration for his national team, Ronaldo’s influence on Portugal is the subject of debate.

But Ronaldo’s team mates routinely leap to his defence and emphasise that he is always working for them. The 31-year-old three-times World Player-of-the-Year has often struggled with an image problem, especially when he said two years ago that Portugal needed “two or three Cristiano Ronaldos.”

He insists on taking every free kick within – and often beyond – shooting distance, prompting suggestions that he is selfish, and is regularly captured on television cameras remonstrating angrily with his team mates.

Nani, a veteran of more than 100 caps, is invariably berated if he dares to try a shot rather than feed the ball to the “senior partner.”

Earlier in the tournament Ronaldo threw a reporter’s microphone into a lake when he was asked a question during a team walk and was criticised for disparaging remarks he made about Iceland after Portugal drew 1-1 with the rank outsiders in their opening match.

He has not even turned up at any of the daily press conferences which Portugal hold at their camp.

Bale, in comparison, has taken part in at least four, looks relaxed, and is not afraid to stir up some controversy such as when he said that no England players would get into the Wales side, adding that Wales were more passionate than their larger neighbours.

Television images tend to show him encouraging his team mates rather than gesticulating angrily and complaining. The match kicks off at 1900GMT on Wednesday (July 6).

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