Ahead of their semi-final clash on Wednesday, Portugal and Wales UAE-based fans give their verdict on the game.
To gain an insight into the mindset of the fans we asked UAE fans to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.
Do you agree or have they missed the mark? Use #360Fans to share with us your thoughts.
PORTUGAL – Francisco Alves (Architect, Dubai)
Yes, we have not yet won a game in 90 minutes, but we have also not lost one! What initially seemed like a disappointing campaign for Portugal is now proving to be a rather successful (though slightly strange) one.
Conceding three goals against Hungary proved some collective frailties, seemingly incompatible with European Championship winners, but Portugal’s performances have been improving gradually and their ability to endure in spite of criticism may be their biggest strength.
Aside from the suspended William Carvalho, Fernando Santos has the full squad in mint condition and should keep the same 4-1-3-2 formation that lined-up in the quarter-final against Poland. Danilo shold come in for Carvalho, while João Moutinho will probably replace Adrien Silva.
Renato Sanches’ fantastic performances (he was Man of the Match against Croatia and Poland) have given both the player and team composure in midfield and even Cristiano Ronaldo’s mindset seems more and more focused on leading our team to the final.
The suspensions of Ben Davies and especially Aaron Ramsey will likely be a major blow for the Welsh but I’m sure they will leave blood, sweat and tears on the pitch in an attempt to keep their debutante dream of reaching the final alive.
Both teams have nothing to lose and so we should expect an entertaining match, packed with exciting football and, hopefully, a fair amount of goals. In the end, Portugal’s positive record against British teams should give us hope that a place in the final awaits.
PREDICTION: Portugal 3-2 Wales
LIKELY PORTUGAL XI: Rui Patrício; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Danilo; Moutinho, Renato Sanches; João Mário; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo.
PORTUGAL PLAYER TO WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo – Whether we like it or not, the main focus of this match will be between two outstanding game-changers. For the past couple of years, much has been said about the ego-pinching presence of Gareth Bale in the same locker-room as Ronaldo and this supposed rivalry, this time on opposite sides, should bring out the best in both.
WALES PLAYER TO FEAR: Gareth Bale – Unlike his Real Madrid team-mate, Bale has been on top form so far at this tournament and this could be (for obvious reasons) his ideal chance to out-shine Ronaldo. When it comes to defending, Portugal’s weakest link has been at right-back, and Bale’s velocity will be a serious threat to our goal.
WHERE TO WATCH THE GAME: Barasti Beach Bar
WALES – Danny Phillips (Dealer Development, Dubai)
Dare to dream. Three words and a simple message to Welsh fans from Chris Coleman. Thirty-two teams came, four now remain; those that have left all have a story, whether it be rebuilding or over achievement. Some leave with heads held high, for others heads will roll.
Wales would have expected their story to be one of those but now they are within sight of one of the biggest prizes in sport. They have numerous potent weapons – confidence, team spirit and focus. When you add in quality too, you have the makings of champions.
All of this was evident against Belgium. Wales have a habit of starting the first half slowly and they can’t afford to give Portugal a head start as they did the Red Devils. But Wales have been reading football comebacks 101 – showing commitment to the plan, great passing, bodies in the box, defending when needed and plenty of good crossing.
The wing-backs have to get high up the pitch to give Wales a chance, as they did against Belgium while, up front, Hal Robson-Kanu versus Pepe is a mouth-watering clash. The Madrid centre-back is a loose cannon, Robson-Kanu is a gentle giant in the John Charles mould. Pepe doesn’t stand a chance.
For the first time since the Slovakia game, Wales have a pair of selection dilemmas with Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey out. Many expect James Collins to come in for Davies, but it’s my hope that Jazz Richards will play on the right side with Gunter dropping into the back three. I am not so concerned about this, as I think Davies has been a little disappointing in both games since the group stages.
The critical absence is Ramsey. He has been a real dominator of games for Wales and has bossed midfields throughout the tournament. Other players have had magic moments, but he has been peerless in performance. Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Williams may come in and he’s a top quality player as we saw vs Northern Ireland, but admittedly no Ramsey.
Wales can win this game. Wales can win the tournament. Dare to dream. Cmyru am byth!
PREDICTION: Portugal 1-2 Wales
LIKELY WALES XI: Hennessey; Williams, Chester, Gunter; Richards, Allen, Ledley, Williams, Taylor; Bale Robson-Kanu
WALES PLAYER TO WATCH: Ashley Williams – A true leader of men and the rock at the heart of the Wales defence, Williams has been immense at this tournament. He is a warrior and will relish the opportunity to test himself against Cristiano Ronaldo.
PORTUGAL PLAYER TO FEAR: Cristiano Ronaldo – Has only turned up for one game so far, the final group game against Hungary. Will be desperate to upstage his Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale but hopefully it will be our man to be the match-winner, not Ronaldo.
WHERE TO WATCH: ON42 at the Media One Hotel.
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