Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Euro 2016 - The superstar showdown: Bale v/s Ronaldo

Wales v/s Portugal, it's Bale v/s Ronaldo. The two best European players; Two superstars, two teammates, two frenemies. It is quite an unlikely scenario that pits these 2 teams in the semi-final. Many were expecting Belgium or England in that last quartet and instead it's the valiant Dragons and the yet-to-win-a-match Portuguese that will fight for the honors.

Whatever the outcome, I really believe the overall winner will come from the other semi-final between Germany and France. For, none of Wales or Portugal have impressed to the extent that they should be fancied should they reach the final. Wales have truly over-achieved and have not only played the Bale factor to perfection but they have been pragmatic when needed. They were almost played out of the pitch in their encounter with Belgium in the opening stages but after conceding the first goal, they showed tremendous resolve to outplay their more-talented rivals. This is a unit that can soak much pressure yet confident enough to score with fast counter-attacks aimed Bale and Robson-Kanu. For sure, they will be missing their creative lynch-pin in midfield in Aaron Ramsey, the Arsenal star suspended after 2 bookings. But with Bale in such form, they have an outstanding chance.

In their way stands Ronaldo backed by his dangerous acolytes like Sanchez, Quaresma and Nani. Portugal have yet to win a match in 90 minutes, it is unfathomable that they could win the tournament without doing so. They've ridden their luck at times but have always shown an ability to score at any point. Ronaldo is clearly struggling and not 100% fit. Had it been otherwise, the chances of this Portugal team going all the way would have been much enhanced. Instead, it seems sometimes the team is overly relying on him to score or make the decisive play. However, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, he cannot be counted out and can make the breakthrough at any moment.

I give a slight edge to Wales here, even without Ramsey. Portugal will make the run of play but are not as steady at the back and this could play to Bale's advantage. The Dragons' fairy tale is set to continue.

To qualify: Wales

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