Portugal defeat Wales to advance to Euro 2016 final

You’ll never believe this but Portugal actually won a game in 90 minutes! Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani scored three minutes apart early in the second half to give Portugal a 2-0 win over Wales in the Euro 2016 semifinals in Lille.

Just like every other game Portugal has played in this tournament the quality of play at the start of the game could best be described as poor. Both teams had shouts for free kicks in dangerous areas early on that were denied by Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson.

With the match being billed as the battle of Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, it was clear the players felt the same way. As the first half dragged on it seemed that every time someone got the ball, their first instinct was to look up and try to find Ronaldo or Bale. Predictably, nothing happened as both teams were focused on stopping the other teams superstar and no one else was stepping up.

It was clear that eventually either Bale or Ronaldo was going to have to do something magical in order to save us all from having to watch 30 extra minutes of the putrid performance both teams were putting out.

Luckily just a few minutes into the second half we got one. Portugal took a short corner, which I’m sure no Portugal fan wanted to see, only for something different to happen this time. This time it was a moment of magic. This time it was Cristiano Ronaldo rising above everyone else to get his head on the ball and give Portugal the 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later Ronaldo was at it again, this time setting up former Manchester United teammate Nani to double Portugal’s lead.

With a two goal lead Portugal were able to sit back over the final half hour to protect the lead. Wales pressed forward desperately searching for a goal but never really threatened.

Right from the start it was clear Wales were desperately missing central midfielder Aaron Ramsey who was suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in their win over Belgium. Without Ramsey Wales played a very slow tempo in the first half, lacking their key player who can make that deadly pass, or play the deadly ball over the top to Hal Robson Kanu the way Ramsey can.

All in all Wales can leave with their heads held high though. They reached the semifinal of a tournament that no one gave them a chance to. They’ll now set their sights on World Cup qualifying where they will be favorites to qualify from a group that features, Austria, Serbia, and the Republic of Ireland.

For Portugal one has to wonder how in the world they’ve made it this far. It would be very easy to argue that they are perhaps the least deserving participants in a final ever. They didn’t win a single game in the group stage, advancing out of the group only thanks to the expanded 24 team format. In the knockout rounds it didn’t get much better, the semifinal was the first game all tournament they won after 90 minutes.

But none of that matters now. The bottom line is they got there and have a chance to win a major international trophy. Should Germany defeat France in tomorrow’s other semifinal, Portugal would be guaranteed a spot in next summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia. If you’re a Portugal fan, there’s nothing better than that.

However as for the rest of us neutrals. After six boring Portugal games, we’re going to have to endure one more.

About Pauly Kwestel

Pauly is a Producer for WFAN in New York and the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has been writing about the beautiful game since 2010 and can be followed on twitter @pkwestelWFAN