Can Wales win the Euros?

With Euro 2016 reaching an exciting climax, it’s time to see whether or not Chris Coleman’s Wales can do the impossible, Ronaldo can finally get international glory, Germany can win back to back tournaments or France can win on home soil once again.

Wales, who have won all but one game in their Euro campaign so far, were very impressive in their shock 3-1 win over Belgium in the quarter finals, where they fought back from 1-0 down after Radja Nainggolan’s stunning strike with goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes.

Robson-Kanu, who scored the winner in Wales’ opening game of the group stage against Slovakia, tucked away an outstanding finish when, with the score tied at 1-1, he controlled a cross from Aaron Ramsey, pulled off an audacious Cruyff turn, and, keeping his head in the biggest game of his career, calmly slotted the ball past keeper Thibaut Courtois.

That goal set up an exciting finish, and after Belgium went looking for an equaliser, a classy header from Sam Vokes sealed the match, booking Wales their place in the semi-finals.

Unfortunately, despite the nature of their historic win, yellow cards for Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey mean that both of them will be out of the last four clash with Portugal, and whilst Ben Davies is a key player in the side, Aaron Ramsey has had a glittering tournament so far, with a goal and four assists proving crucial in their rapid progress into the latter stages of Euro 2016.

Ramsey, who brings flair and creativity that no one else in the Wales squad can, will be a big miss, so Andy King of Leicester, if picked to replace him, will have a huge job on his hands.

Still, if there was a team where Wales may not need their Arsenal star, it could well be against Portugal, a side who are yet to win a game in 90 minutes in all of their five games so far in France.

Obviously, they would still rather have him than not have him, but if they can get themselves through to the final, providing Ramsey keeps himself clear of any freak injuries, he will be back, eligible to play, and he will have had an important rest.

Without one of their main stars available, there will be more pressure on Gareth Bale, and the Real Madrid winger got off to a flyer in the group stage with three goals in three games, so as we reach crunch time with the semi-finals, Bale will hope to further stake his claim to become the best player in Welsh history, after all, Ryan Giggs and Ian Rush never succeeded at a major tournament.

As for the match up between Bale and his club team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, it is likely to be that whichever of the two shows up on the night will see their team prevail overall, but despite their individual quality, Wales have shown on many occasions that a good team ethic combined with hard work and determination can get them far.

Portugal contrast deeply, as their team is mainly built around Ronaldo, but whilst they have wanted to get the best out of Cr7, he has mainly been on the periphery of their matches so far, with his impressive display in their 3-3 draw with Hungary being the exception.

That match is also an exception in the sense that Portugal have hardly been entertaining to watch, and really, in truth, they haven’t played very well, after scraping through an accessible group in third place behind Iceland and Hungary, and after they had to wait 118 minutes to score in their 1-0 win over Croatia, they beat Poland on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes to reach the semis.

Moving onto the other last four match, hosts France, who beat Iceland 5-2 in the quarter finals, face World Cup holders Germany, who beat Italy on penalties en route to this eagerly anticipated clash.

The latter, who have looked cool throughout the tournament, finally met their match in the form of a resolute Italy side under Antonio Conte, but they made it through, and although they may not be as good as they were when they won the World Cup two years ago, they are considered by many as favourites to win the whole thing.

A strong side all round rather than being strong in one area, that could suit them, but they may still struggle to contain the likes of France’s Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann who have been in fine form so far in their home Euros campaign.

Greizmann is the tournament’s top scorer so far with four and Payet, who has three goals to his name so far, will be a serious contender for player of the tournament.

Facing Germany could mean that the return from suspension of N’golo Kante could be huge, and after the duo flourished playing as two strikers against Icleand, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann could play as a pair once again, with Payet possibly moving into the middle.

Should Payet vacate his previous role on the left and play in the hole, he may obstruct the space for Paul Pogba to roam, but if he drifts wide, allowing himself to cut inside as he loves doing, he could prove effective, providing Didier Deschamps is able to fit his two creative stars together in attacking positions.

So, two blockbuster semi-final matches await us – the first a match with a player of incredible class looking to prove himself against a strong collective unit that also have one star player, and the second a mouth-watering fixture between two European powerhouses – we’ve got a lot to look forward to.


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