Euro 2016: 'Cristiano Ronaldo was the only difference between Wales & Portugal'

There was nothing between Wales and Portugal in their Euro 2016 semi-final until the bit of brilliance from Cristiano Ronaldo that saw him score their first goal.

It was a great leap and fantastic header and there were only two players on the pitch who could have done it - the other was Gareth Bale.

Bale did his best to find some magic in Lyon but while it did not happen for him, it happened for his Real Madrid team-mate, who also set up Portugal's second goal by Nani a few minutes later.

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Euro 2016: Wales could have won semi-final - Dean Saunders

That was more avoidable from a Welsh point of view, but it was also unlucky - there was at least one offside involved and Ronaldo also mis-hit the shot that Nani turned in.

After that, Portugal just snuffed us out, which is what they are very good at. The substitutions that Wales manager Chris Coleman made to try to change that did not work this time, and we are out.

It is a disappointing end to an incredible tournament but we can still be proud, because it was an incredible achievement to reach the semi-finals.

We should remember that we lost 2-0 and we were not torn apart, it was a world-class player that has decided the game, and I still feel we were not far off from winning it.

Ronaldo shows his intelligence

Ronaldo is the joint-highest scorer in European Championship history

I said before the game that it would be either Ronaldo or Bale who decided this game - sadly for Wales, it was Ronaldo.

We actually dealt well with Ronaldo in a very even first half, with the strength of James Collins in the air helping us cope well with the balls aimed towards him in the box.

But he is such a good player that he always finds a way through, and the way he got a run on James Chester to score showed how clever he is.

Ronaldo leapt 7ft 10in to head home Portugal's opener - James Chester, who was marking him, is 5ft 10 in
Ronaldo leapt to a height of 7ft 10in to head home Portugal's opener - James Chester, who was marking him, is 5ft 10 in

If you watch Ronaldo's movement as the ball is put over following a short corner, he fools Chester by feinting to go in front of him and, by doing so, manoeuvred him under the ball so he could not get the same leap at it.

While he was doing that, Ronaldo has kept his eye on the ball and picked up the flight of it and the height he reaches when he meets the ball - 7ft 10in - is amazing.

It is no fluke, either, he does it every week for Real Madrid and has a phenomenal scoring record at the European Championship too.

2-0 and they have killed the game

Ronaldo was offside at the start of the move that led to Portugal's second goal
Ronaldo was offside at the start of the move that led to Portugal's second goal

Although it was from a set-piece, you have to put Portugal's first goal down to the genius of Ronaldo - not so for their second.

Ronaldo was marginally offside when he picked up the ball on the left at the start of the move, and it was the same for Renato Sanches, who was interfering with play when he stepped over Ronaldo's dragged shot on its way to Nani.

Renato Sanches was offside when Ronaldo fired in the shot that Nani slid in to score from
Renato Sanches was offside when Ronaldo fired in the shot that Nani slid in to score from

Credit to Nani, who read the shot as it came towards him. You could see he was on his toes to turn it home, and it was a real striker's goal.

But Wales could definitely have done more to prevent it, starting with Joe Ledley who was slow out to close down Ronaldo in the first place.

There were seven more Wales players still in the box as the ball was fired back in, but Nani was the only one anticipating it, and he got his reward. That goal was the one that killed us.

Wales can find no way through

Wales still had more than 35 minutes to rescue the game but we found it very difficult to find a way through.

Coleman did not wait long to make changes, and Wales soon switched from 5-3-2 to 4-4-2, by which time Sam Vokes and Simon Church had come off the bench as our two strikers.

We went for it, and there is nothing wrong with that, but we just seemed to lose a bit of discipline in the centre of midfield with that change of shape because Joe Allen had pushed further up.

Without him, we did not really have a player back there who we could recycle the ball to and look to get us going.

Andy King had looked dangerous in the first half when he was making runs into the box but by this stage he was dropping back along with Jonny Williams and we were not really creating much.

Bale was trying his best, of course, and dropping deeper and deeper to get on the ball but it just was not his night - his best effort of the game was a superb dipping strike from distance that brought a great stop from Rui Patricio.

Part of the reason we lost was down to our lack of invention, but Portugal deserve credit too. They are a tough nut to crack defensively and are unbeaten in their last 13 competitive games, and they are in the final on merit.

Dean Saunders was speaking to Chris Bevan in Paris.

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