Euro 2016: Portugal's Pepe does not daunt Wales' Hal Robson-Kanu

Hal Robson-Kanu fools Belgian defenders
Hal Robson-Kanu's wonder goal against Belgium was his fourth for Wales
Portugal v Wales
Date: Wednesday, 6 July Venue: Stade de Lyon, Lyon Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and text commentary online & on BBC Sport app

Free agent Hal Robson-Kanu is not daunted by the prospect of facing double Champions League winner Pepe in the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

The 27-year-old, released by Reading at the end of the season, cannot wait to confront Real Madrid's notorious centre-back if he is fit to face Wales in Lyon.

Known for his rustic tackling and propensity for playacting, Pepe is a globally-renowned defender whose abrasive approach divides opinion.

However, still on a high after his spectacular goal in the quarter-final win over Belgium, Robson-Kanu is strikingly confident.

"I don't know how much he will be looking forward to playing against me," Robson-Kanu says of Pepe.

"Portugal hold a bit of a high line and there will probably be a lot more space in behind. He will be hopefully seeing the back of my number a fair few times chasing after me.

"He is a world-class player. He knows what he is doing, but it holds no fear and I am relishing the game."

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Robson-Kanu's incredible Euro 2016 goal

A Wales career started by a joke

When then-Wales coach Brian Flynn visited Reading's training ground several years ago, winger Glen Little joked that Royals team-mate Robson-Kanu could qualify for Wales "because he goes on holiday there".

But, as Flynn told BBC Radio 5 live on Tuesday, when they chatted further in the club canteen, Robson-Kanu admitted to holidaying in a caravan in Tenby - picking up his Caerphilly-born grandmother on the way.

Flynn said: "That struck a note obviously. But Hal had already played for England under 19s. As soon as I could I watched Hal play, he passed the 'football test' and then it took me 12 months to persuade him and thankfully he turned round and said he wanted to do it."

Plenty of offers rolling in

Robson-Kanu started Euro 2016 with just two international goals to his name but, having struck twice in France, he says he has received "offers from around the world" as he seeks a new club.

It was his goal against Belgium which catapulted him into the spotlight, flummoxing three Belgian defenders at once with an audacious turn before finishing firmly beyond Thibaut Courtois.

"A lot of it passes you by when you are in the moment. To be honest I have not really been aware of what exactly has been going on," he adds.

"I am aware there has been a bit of a frenzy so to speak but for me now the focus is very much on our next game and it is some game."

As Wales prepare for their first semi-final at a major tournament, much of the pre-match hype has concerned the contest between Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Winding up Mr Nice Guy

In Robson-Kanu's case, however, the only Real player he has been quizzing Bale about is Pepe.

"He says he is actually a nice guy, believe it or not," says Robson-Kanu.

"On the pitch he does what he feels is necessary, but we will be more than comfortable to do what is necessary as well. I can't wait."

Asked if doing what is "necessary" might mean delving into the dark arts to wind up Pepe, Robson-Kanu smiles and says: "No comment".

Pepe shows his frustration during a Portugal game
Pepe has made 74 appearances for Portugal

The former Arsenal youth player is clearly enjoying his experience at Euro 2016 and, as he and Wales scale new heights, it is no wonder.

Yet in the most important match of his career - and in Welsh football history - Robson-Kanu is mindful of keeping his cool against potentially antagonistic opponents.

"Yes, it is a responsibility and you don't want to leave your team short," he says.

"It is important you don't make any rash decisions but, in the heat of the moment, anything can happen.

"I am sure it will be a feisty encounter, but I am looking forward to it."

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