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Preview: Gunter's Wales bid for place in the final

5 July 2016

Wales face Portugal in Lyon in the semi-finals of Euro 2016...

Ahead of Wednesday evening’s European Championships semi-final, Chris Gunter’s Wales are looking to make history as they bid to book a place in their first ever final at a major tournament.

The Dragons will be hoping to continue their incredible summer when they face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Lyon, with the Welsh in fine form following their memorable 3-1 victory over Belgium in the quarter-finals.

After topping Group B with six points and beating both Slovakia and Russia, the Welsh set up a Round-of-16 tie with Northern Ireland. In a tight and nervy fixture at the Stade de France that saw Royals pair Ollie Norwood and Gunter go head-to-head, it was Wales who came out on top as the match decided by an unfortunate own goal.

A whipped cross from Gareth Bale on the left-hand-side was Northern Ireland’s undoing, with Gareth McAuley only able to deflect the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear. The 75th minute goal was enough to win it for the welsh and set up a meeting with Belgium quarter-final. 

In a clash that was considered by most as the game of the tournament so far, Wales came from a goal down to equalise through skipper Ashley Williams, after Radja Nainggolan had hammered Belgium into the lead early-on, making the score 1-1 at half-time.

In a dramatic second period, Royals academy graduate Hal Robson-Kanu slotted Wales ahead after a fine turn that foiled the Belgium defence. As the Belgians pushed forward for an equaliser they left spaces in-behind their back four, which Gunter was able to exploit late-on when he was picked out on the right wing.

The Royals full-back delivered a perfect cross, picking out Sam Vokes in the box, who glanced his header past a despairing Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium goal.

Portugal made harder work of things on their journey to the last four, after qualifying from group F with just three points, drawing all three of their games and finishing behind Hungary and Iceland.

The Portuguese, managed by Fernando Santos, are a notoriously difficult team to beat, as they showed when they met Croatia in the Round-of-16. A 117th minute winner from substitute Ricardo Quaresma separated the sides, as Portugal defended stoutly against a dangerous Croatian line-up to see out a 1-0 win in extra time.  

They produced a similar kind of display against Poland in their quarter final at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille where - despite falling behind to an early Robert Lewandowski strike - the Portuguese delivered another solid performance.

18-year-old Renato Sanches fired Portugal level on the 33rd minute, making him the youngest ever goalscorer in the history of the European Championship knockout phase. The two sides cancelled each other out for the remainder of contest with Portugal winning a dramatic penalty shoot-out to book their place in the semi-final in Lyon.

With Cristiano Ronaldo lining up against Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale, and with neither nation having collected silverware in an international tournament, there will be many layers to the narrative on Wednesday evening in what promises to be an enthralling contest.  

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