Cristiano Ronaldo fires Portugal into Euro 2016 final


(CNN) Cristiano Ronaldo proved himself the man for the big occasion once again by firing Portugal into the final of Euro 2016 Wednesday.

Ronaldo’s second-half header and a strike by his former Manchester United teammate Nani secured a 2-0 win against Wales in Lyon.
Portugal, which last reached the final of the competition in 2004, will face either host nation France or world champion Germany in Paris on Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after Portugal defeated Wales 2-0 in the semifinals of Euro 2016. Portugal will play France or Germany in Sunday's final.
This contest had been billed as clash between two of the world’s top players — Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale.
But Bale, who has enjoyed a stellar tournament for a country which had never before qualified for the tournament, failed to match the exploits of his rival.
Ronaldo, who equaled Michel Platini’s record of scoring nine career goals at the Euros, will now hope to exorcise the ghosts of 2004 when Portugal was beaten by Greece in a final held in its own backyard.
“I hope that [after the final] we’ll be smiling and that it will be tears of joy in the end,” Ronaldo told the tournament’s official website.
“I’ve always said my dream was to win a trophy with Portugal. We’re closer to doing it and I believe that we’ll win.
“With a lot of work, humility and the spirit of self-sacrifice, which I have always shown in my career, these sorts of things are doable.”
Bale and Ronaldo embraced at the end of the game.
Bale and Ronaldo embraced at the end of the game.

Rocky road

For Portugal, the road to the final has been long and arduous, often due to the team’s own inadequacies.
While Wales enjoyed a rather enchanting run to its first major semifinal, Portugal’s journey to its fifth could scarcely have been more different.
No other team had arrived at the last-four stage of the European Championship finals without winning a game in 90 minutes — but Portugal, which drew all three of its group matches and only qualified in third place, has always managed to do just enough.
A last-16 win over Croatia, secured with just three minutes of extra-time remaining, was then followed by a penalty shootout triumph over Poland after the game had finished 1-1.
For all the exciting talent, and there is plenty even if this may not be a vintage Portuguese team, rarely has it looked impressive.


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