5 major talking points ahead of Wales' semi-final against Portugal


Wales meet Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday night for a place in the final of Euro 2016.

Here we look at some of the talking points ahead of the biggest night in Welsh football history.

1. Bale v Ronaldo

Wales v Portugal head-to-head

There is no getting away from the most fascinating head-to-head duel of the tournament. The two most expensive players in football history are Real Madrid team-mates and proven match-winners. But that's where the similarities end with Cristiano Ronaldo focused on individual acclaim and Gareth Bale the epitome of a team man. Bale's development has led to Madridistas suggesting he is the man to take over the scoring burden from the ageing Ronaldo. The Portuguese, however, will have his own views on that and will no doubt see this game as proving a point to his Welsh pretender.

2. How much of a loss is Aaron Ramsey?

Wales' Aaron Ramsey, left, and Belgium's Toby Alderweireld

How Wales cope with the absence of the suspended Aaron Ramsey is pivotal. Ramsey has been among the standout players of Euro 2016 with one goal and four assists in Wales' march to the semi-finals. The midfielder's energy will be sorely missed given he combines defensive responsibilities with a capacity to break forward into dangerous areas. Jonathan Williams and Andy King are the candidates to replace Ramsey and whoever is selected has a big part to play. Portugal are good in possession - especially teenage sensation Renato Sanches - and like to play through midfield, but they are also vulnerable at the back as Hungary showed in putting three goals past them in the group stage.

3. Portugal have experience if it goes to a shoot-out

Portugal's players celebrate

If it comes down to a penalty shoot-out to decide the winner then Wales might be at a serious disadvantage. A lack of major tournament experience means that Chris Coleman's side would be treading new ground after 120 minutes. But Portugal are no strangers to spot-kick contests after beating England on penalties at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. They also have somewhat fresher memories of shoot-out success, having held their nerve to beat Poland in the quarter-final - converting all five of their penalties and, in truth, never looked like missing any of them.

4. Are Portugal fatigued?

Cristiano Ronaldo

Will Portugal pay for the fact that they have failed to get the job done in 90 minutes? It is remarkable that Portugal have reached the semi-finals without winning in normal time - drawing their three group games and then needing extra time to beat Croatia and penalties to see off Poland. Those extra minutes could catch up on Portugal in the heat of Lyon. Wales, by contrast, have won four of their five games in 90 minutes and, apart from their last-gasp defeat to England, have finished games strongly and tended to score late on.

5. Rise of a nation

Wales players celebrate with their fans

Wales have already exceeded expectations by reaching the last four - the first British side to do so at a major finals for 20 years. So anything now would be considered a bonus. But there is real belief within this Wales squad that the journey is not about to end just yet. Less than five years ago Wales were ranked 117th in the world, the next Fifa rankings list should place them in the top six. Wales' success has created unparalleled interest in the sport - as proven by packed fan zones at home and the huge travelling numbers in France. The results should serve Welsh football well for generations to come.