Sports

 

Media playback is not supported on this device

Dragon is only motivation I need – Bale

Wales are the only home nation left in Euro 2016 and are in the last eight at the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

Belgium, ranked second in the world, are the next test for Chris Coleman’s side as they look to continue their remarkable progress in France.

Legendary Wales strikers Dean Saunders and John Hartson, who between them won 126 caps and scored 36 goals for their country, explain how Wales can win and book a place in the semi-finals.

The first job – force Eden Hazard wide

Media playback is not supported on this device

Euro 2016: Eden Hazard scores Belgium’s third goal against Hungary

Saunders: Belgium are going to dominate possession, which is fine, but we have got to stop them from hurting us – that is difficult because they have so many different weapons in their attack.

We will have to close down Kevin de Bruyne, who has been playing behind Romelu Lukaku and has got a stinging shot in him on either foot, but if Eden Hazard is fit then he will be Belgium’s most dangerous player.

When we beat Belgium in Cardiff in June, Coleman kept Hazard quiet by bringing in Jazz Richards at right wing-back and moving Chris Gunter infield to be the right-sided centre-half in our back three.

Between them, they handled him really well down Belgium’s left, but I don’t see Chris doing the same this time because continuity has been a big part of why we have done so well in France, especially at the back where we have been unchanged in all four games.

Saunders’ predicted Wales line-up

Dean Saunders thinks Chris Coleman will pick the same starting XI that faced Northern Ireland

I can see Chris sticking with the same team that started against Northern Ireland, but our right-sided defensive midfielder – either Joe Allen or Joe Ledley – will have to get across to help Gunter as soon as Hazard gets the ball, along with James Chester, the right-sided centre-half.

Their job will be to stop Hazard from coming inside and to show him down the line instead. When that happens, Gunter will also try to stop the cross from coming in, but you have to be realistic – Hazard is so good, he is going to get some balls over.

So all our midfield players will have to pick their runners up around the box, not just De Bruyne, and the most important thing will be to mark Lukaku tightly because he will be trying to get between our other two centre-halves when the cross comes in.

Defend well, then hit the Belgians on the break

Media playback is not supported on this device

Euro 2016: Hungary 0-4 Belgium highlights

Saunders: When we clear those crosses, we have got to counter-attack like I know we can do, because while Hazard’s attacking play is one of Belgium’s strengths, it is also a weakness.

Jan Vertonghen’s injury means we do not know who will play as Belgium’s left-back against Wales but, whoever it is, we will be able to isolate them because Hazard does not run back.

Hungary did it effectively, and they do not have the same attacking threat as us.

The mistake they made was leaving their wide players too far up the pitch and that allowed Hazard to hurt them more – he was on fire in that game and Belgium should have won by more than 4-0.

Hazard has the same number of assists in four appearances for Belgium in France as he managed in 38 Premier League appearances for Chelsea last season

After watching that game again on Wednesday, though, I now have a clearer picture of what Wales will have to do to win.

There is no way we will be as open as Hungary were from the start because we have so many unselfish and disciplined players like Allen and Ledley who do a lot of running just to support our defenders and ensure we do not lose our shape.

But, when we steal the ball back, we have to use it properly. That starts with the first header clear from one of those Hazard crosses.

I would be telling Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey to drift over to Belgium’s left where they will have space – and the aim should be to get the ball to them and build the attack from there.

When Wales are on the attack – hit Sam Vokes

Media playback is not supported on this device

Highlights: Russia 0-3 Wales

Hartson: There is a decision to be made up front because Hal Robson-Kanu played in both games against Belgium in the qualifiers and did not let us down.

Hal is very mobile and gives us a threat in behind their defence with his pace, and he can also carry the ball better than Sam Vokes can.

Sam is a big centre-forward that you can hit the ball to, and he will keep hold of it. He has a similar role to the one I had up front for Wales – winning headers and winning fouls so the team can advance up the pitch.

It depends which way Chris wants to go, but Sam has started the past two games and I don’t think he has done an awful lot wrong.

He will contain both of Belgium’s centre-halves like he did against Russia and give them problems in the air and on the ground – you cannot get around him.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Euro 2016: Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland highlights

Sam missed a good chance against Northern Ireland but the next one he gets like that, he will put it away. I have worked with him and I know how good he is.

I also think he will now be feeling like the Wales number nine, not a bit-part player, which is something else I can relate to.

At first I was always behind Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Dean Saunders, but when Hughes became manager he made me first choice and my confidence went through the roof.

I took on the mantle of being the main striker and I think Sam is in that position now, as an important member of this team.

Can Wales do it?

Media playback is not supported on this device

Euro 2016: Top-scorer Gareth Bale’s three goals for Wales

Hartson: Coleman has got pretty much every tactical and selection issue right at this tournament so far but we have to appreciate how good this Belgium team is and what an incredible victory this would be.

For it to happen, we need to have total focus at the back and we will rely on our best two players again – Ramsey and Bale, who have been involved in every Wales goal at this tournament – if we are going to score.

I am optimistic we can get through, but I would not say I was overly confident about it because watching Belgium the other night was frightening, even if it was only against Hungary.

One big factor in our favour is that we are unbeaten in our past three meetings, including a win – so we do know how to get a result against them.

Saunders: Belgium are favourites for a reason but we have a good record against them, even going back to when I was in the team.

Wales have a winning formula and Bale is part of that. He is a proper match-winner and, for me, the best player in the tournament. With him in the team, anything is possible.

Pick the XI that you think can take Wales far at Euro 2016 – and then share it with your friends using our team selector.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

 

Media playback is not supported on this device

Euro 2016: Poland 1-1 Portugal (3-5 pens) highlights

Portugal reached the semi-finals of the European Championship for the fourth time in five tournaments with a penalty shootout victory over Poland.

Ricardo Quaresma scored the winning spot-kick after Jakub Blaszczykowski’s effort was saved by Rui Patricio.

Robert Lewandowski had fired Poland ahead in the second minute with teenager Renato Sanches equalising via a deflected strike.

Portugal’s semi-final opponent will be either Wales or Belgium.

Remarkably, Portugal have reached the last four without winning a game in normal time following three draws in a group in which they finished third and an extra-time win over Croatia in the last 16.

No side has ever got this far in a European Championship without winning a match inside 90 minutes.

Portugal have also only led a match for 22 minutes during the whole tournament, while Poland have not trailed for a single minute.

However, for a second dour and conservative knockout game running, Fernando Santos’ side did what was required when it mattered.

How the penalty shootout was won

Ricardo Quaresma also scored Portugal’s extra-winner winner against Croatia in the last 16

Neither goalkeeper came close to saving the first three penalties from either side.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Sanches and Joao Moutinho all scored excellent penalties for Portugal, with Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik and Kamil Glik following suit for Poland.

However, after Nani had put Portugal 4-3 ahead, Patricio dived full length to his left to palm away Blaszczykowski’s effort with one hand.

Lukasz Fabianski got his fingertips to Quaresma’s decisive effort but could not prevent it finding the roof of the net.

Ronaldo’s redemption of sorts

Ronaldo had five efforts at goal – one on target (green), one missed (red) and three were blocked (yellow). Air shots not pictured

For much of the game, the overriding image of Ronaldo was of him slapping his thigh and screaming towards the French sky in frustration.

Barring a few exceptional moments – his two goals against Hungary and assisting Quaresma’s winner to see off Croatia – this has been a disappointing tournament for the finest European player of his generation.

He was barely recognisable from the figure who has terrorised defences across the continent for more than a decade as a series of scuffed and miscued strikes took him from 31 to 36 efforts for the tournament without an addition to his two group-stage goals.

Worst of all was a couple of air shots – one from a low Nani cross, the other following a chipped ball over the defence and into the box by substitute Joao Moutinho.

He should have had a first-half penalty, when he was clumsily shoved in the back in the box by Michal Pazdan, but his anguished appeals were waved away by referee Felix Brych.

However, he led from the front in the shootout, firing home the first penalty with aplomb and remains in the tournament, unlike Poland’s own star man.

Lewandowski offers hope

Robert Lewandowski ended 645 minutes without a goal at Euros finals

Having scored 13 goals in qualifying and 42 in 51 appearances for club Bayern Munich in 2015-16, Lewandowski had spent much of Poland’s four games prior to Thursday being frustrated, through both fair and foul means from opponents – he is the most fouled man in the tournament.

It was only a matter of time, though, before a striker of his class made an impression on the tournament, although few would have imagined Portugal to be so accommodating so early in Marseille.

Southampton full-back Cedric Soares was at fault, allowing a cross-field ball to evade him and reach Kamil Grosicki, whose low cross was struck home first-time by his captain with just one minute and 40 seconds on the clock.

It is the second fastest goal in Euros history – beaten only by Dmitri Kirichenko’s 65-second strike for Russia against Greece in 2004 – and ends a 645-minute goal-drought for Lewandowski in the finals of this competition.

Now brimming with confidence, the 27-year-old then beat Pepe to the ball in the box but saw his low shot saved by Patricio as Poland took the game to their opponents in the first 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, they were unable to build on this, offering precious little in attack and relying instead on a resolute defence that has conceded just twice in five games (two of which have gone to extra-time) to see give them through to the shoot-out.

The next Portuguese superstar?

Renato Sanches’ touchmap shows he made his presence felt in the Poland half

It has been some year for Sanches.

The teenager only made his first-team debut for Benfica in November, but since then he has made his international bow, claimed a Primeira Liga winners’ medal and agreed to join Bayern Munich for £27.5m.

He now has a full-debut international goal to his name, making him – at 18 years and 316 days – the youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages of a European Championship.

Picking up the ball wide right he played a superb one-two with Nani before finding the net with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection off Grzegorz Krychowiak.

However, barring an extra-time pitch-invader, this was to be the last real moment of excitement until the shootout.

Man of the match – Renato Sanches (Portugal)

Skilful, quick, strong – Portugal (and Bayern Munich) have a real player on their hands. He is the youngest player to score in a knockout game at the Euros, and the third youngest overall to score in Euros history

What they said

Portugal goalscorer Sanches: “It is a wonderful moment for the team and for me for scoring. We have been working very hard and we have been doing our best. People criticise us but we don’t care because we are in the semis.”

Poland coach Adam Nawalka: “It’s definitely a tough moment for us. The players put a lot of heart into this match and played bravely throughout this tournament. We haven’t lost a match – we were knocked out on penalties. We have to look with optimism to the future and the European qualifiers. There will soon be time for detailed analysis but this defeat hurts.”

The stats you need to know

  • This is the fifth time Portugal have reached a Euro semi-final (1984, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2016).
  • Portugal have won three of their four shootouts at major tournaments.
  • Renato Sanches became the youngest player to score in a knockout game at the Euros ever (18y 316d), and the third youngest overall to score in Euros history (behind Volanthen and Rooney).
  • Only Luis Figo (5) has more assists at the Euros for Portugal than Nani (4).
  • Nani has been involved in 50% of Portugal’s goals at this tournament (3/6, two goals and one assist).
  • Poland and Portugal entered extra time for the second time at Euro 2016 – the last teams to do be in extra time twice at same Euros were France and Italy in 2000.
  • Only the Netherlands (7) have played more extra time game at the Euros than Portugal (6).

What next?

Wales and Belgium face each other in Lille on Friday to decide Portugal’s last-four opponent in Lyon on Wednesday, 6 July.

Live Text

Match ends, Poland 1(3), Portugal 1(5).

Penalty Shootout ends, Poland 1(3), Portugal 1(5).

Goal! Poland 1(3), Portugal 1(5). Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the high centre of the goal.

Penalty saved! Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the bottom right corner.

Goal! Poland 1(3), Portugal 1(4). Nani (Portugal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the top right corner.

Goal! Poland 1(3), Portugal 1(3). Kamil Glik (Poland) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Goal! Poland 1(2), Portugal 1(3). João Moutinho (Portugal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Goal! Poland 1(2), Portugal 1(2). Arkadiusz Milik (Poland) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Goal! Poland 1(1), Portugal 1(2). Renato Sanches (Portugal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the top left corner.

Goal! Poland 1(1), Portugal 1(1). Robert Lewandowski (Poland) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

Goal! Poland 1, Portugal 1(1). Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Penalty Shootout begins Poland 1, Portugal 1.

Second Half Extra Time ends, Poland 1, Portugal 1.

Attempt missed. Lukasz Piszczek (Poland) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Attempt blocked. Bartosz Kapustka (Poland) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tomasz Jodlowiec.

Arkadiusz Milik (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Danilo Pereira (Portugal).

Corner, Portugal. Conceded by Artur Jedrzejczyk.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match (Poland).

Corner, Poland. Conceded by Pepe.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by João Moutinho (Portugal).

Attempt missed. Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Tomasz Jodlowiec.

Attempt blocked. Bartosz Kapustka (Poland) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is blocked. Assisted by Arkadiusz Milik.

Second Half Extra Time begins Poland 1, Portugal 1.

First Half Extra Time ends, Poland 1, Portugal 1.

Attempt saved. Nani (Portugal) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Cédric Soares.

Foul by Tomasz Jodlowiec (Poland).

João Moutinho (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Arkadiusz Milik (Poland) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Jakub Blaszczykowski.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Nani (Portugal).

Attempt missed. Nani (Portugal) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Cédric Soares with a cross.

Substitution, Poland. Tomasz Jodlowiec replaces Krzysztof Maczynski.

Attempt blocked. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Renato Sanches.

Substitution, Portugal. Danilo Pereira replaces William Carvalho.

Attempt blocked. Renato Sanches (Portugal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Cédric Soares with a cross.

First Half Extra Time begins Poland 1, Portugal 1.

Second Half ends, Poland 1, Portugal 1.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

 
Wales are determined to continue their Euro 2016 adventure in France

Wales’ Euro 2016 quarter-final against Belgium on Friday is their biggest match since the 1958 World Cup, according to manager Chris Coleman.

Wales have not reached a major finals since they were beaten by Brazil in the last eight 58 years ago.

Ranked 26th in the world, Coleman’s team take on a side 24 places above them – with a semi-final in Lyon on 6 July the reward for the winner.

“We know what’s at stake – it’s a fantastic pressure to have,” he said.

“Since that 1958 quarter-final, we have to put this down as the biggest game our country’s ever been involved in.

“People have already said: ‘Wales can’t lose, they weren’t meant to get to the quarter-final, they’re the underdogs.’ This definitely isn’t the way we see it.”

Wales are in the habit of defying the odds as a team whose unity – and sprinkling of star quality in the form of Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey – compensates for a squad lacking the strength in depth of their illustrious opponents.

Belgium, who were in the same qualifying group as Wales, lost their opening game 2-0 against Italy but have won their three matches since and have several Premier League players in their squad, including Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, Manchester City forward Kevin de Bruyne and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.

“I’m not going to play the occasion down,” added Coleman, whose team lost to England before going on to win Group B and then defeating Northern Ireland in the last 16.

“I’m going to enjoy it and savour it – but we’ll only enjoy it when we perform.

“I don’t need to ham this game up. We are where we are, it is what it is, we’ve earned it.”

Determined to continue the adventure

Media playback is not supported on this device

Dragon is only motivation I need – Bale

It was possible to detect a hint of finality in the Football Association of Wales’ video thanking the people of Dinard, the quaint seaside town in Brittany which has been Wales’ home for Euro 2016, for their hospitality.

Paying tribute in Bretagne, French, Welsh and English, there was a faint sense of bidding farewell, perhaps mindful that Wales’ first European Championship campaign could be nearing its end.

However, a moment in the company of Wales’ players is enough to realise how determined they are to ensure their French adventure continues.

“We have done well to get this far, but when you are in the quarter-final of the tournament knowing if we can get it right there are great possibilities, it is different,” said Coleman.

“There is more football and more performances in this team.”

Wales fans set to be outnumbered

Belgium fans are expected to heavily outnumber their Welsh counterparts in Lille on Friday

It is thought there will be around 20,000 Wales fans in Lille for the match.

But with Lille just 10 miles from the Belgian border it has been estimated that there will be up to 150,000 Belgium fans making the trip for the game.

This has led to concerns that many ticketless Welsh fans may not even be able to get into the Lille fan zone, which holds 30,000. Paul Corkery, of the Football Supporters’ Federation Cymru, warned: “Once it’s full it’s shut.”

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots said his team will have home advantage, adding: “We have a team with a few worries. So it’s good to have a 12th man.”

In Wales, there are fan zones open on Friday in various locations, including Cardiff, Newport, Pontypridd and Anglesey.

A butcher in Cardiff has produced a special Euro Burger,