In a matched billed as a battle between two giants, Portugal triumphed 2-0 over Wales in what was very much a team performance from both sides. The match started off testily enough, with Portugal sitting deep and inviting Wales to take the initiative. Clearly more comfortable when counter-attacking, Wales required Gareth Bale to come deep in order to improve the connection between midfield and attack. Bale obliged unselfishly and managed to impress in his all-round role, but this eliminated any real threat Wales had in front of goal. Aaron Ramsey could have alleviated the pressure on Bale to do everything, but with the Welsh central midfielder sitting on the bench suspended, Bale was spread thin.
Despite this limitation, Bale managed to execute a couple good driving runs and even managed a shot from a good position; but it wasn't enough to spark anything for Wales.
Ronaldo for his part, stuck more to the box, as is required for his role in Portugal's system. On the wrong side of 30 and playing as a central striker, Ronaldo did not have the same freedom to drive from deep. Yet still he ventured away from the penalty box in order to be a passing outlet from his teammates. While this improved Portugal's fluency in possession, Ronaldo's linking movements left the box empty and thus made it hard for Portugal to create anything. Like Bale, Ronaldo was spread too thin in the first half.
With both Wales and Portugal stagnant in possession, the 1st half ended on a dull note with possession evenly split and with no clear-cut chances created. The game was begging for a moment of magic.
Ronaldo obliged with piece of pure athletic brilliance, as he pounced on a cross from a short corner to put Portugal into the lead.
Ronaldo's Jump & Header Goal is even better with the Titanic music pic.twitter.com/YhNDn2tGhb— RMadrid Babe (@RMadridBabe) July 6, 2016
The leap was majestic, as he soared at least a foot higher than anyone else, but the header was something else; the ball left Ronaldo's head like a cannon ball and ripped the net in joyous delight.
Portugal played like a side reborn from that point on; not due to any tactical change, but purely because of their captain's inspiring goal. 3 minutes later, Ronaldo popped into another dangerous area and fired a shot from outside the box. Nani latched onto it with excellent reflexes and turned it in past a helpless Hennessey. Game over.
Wales fought back gallantly, pressing high up the pitch for the last half hour of the game, but they created no clear-cut chances to give themselves a prayer of getting back into the match. It was left to Bale to conjure up a moment of genius, and he nearly did, whipping an incredible 45-yard strike onto goal minutes after a speculative volleyed attempt from range. But it simply wasn't to be for the legendary Welshman. Portugal defended excellently after Nani's goal and should've scored two more - Joao Mario's near miss and Danilo's one-on-one with Hennessey.
At the end of the day, it was the better team that won.
Madridistas will feel sorrow for the end of Bale's legendary campaign, they can take heart in the fact that Ronaldo's push for history continues.
1 goal, 1 assist, 45 touches, 2/9 shots on target, 3 aerial dules won, 1 key pass, 1 dribble, 1 foul drawn, 29 passes (79.3% accuracy), 1 tackle, 3 fouls committed.
75 touches, 3/5 shots on target, 2 key passes, 2 dribbles, 1 foul drawn, 1 aerial duel won, 45 passes (68.9% accuracy), 1/6 accurate crosses, 6/9 long balls completed, 2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 blocked shot, 1 foul committed.
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