Euro 2016: Last 16 Review – Wales and Portugal Book their Places in the Quarter-Finals in France

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Wales and Portugal secured their quarter-final berths at Euro 2016 on Saturday after a nerve-wracking day of action in France.



In truth, it was never going to be a match for the football purists at the Parc des Princes on Saturday when Wales took on Northern Ireland at Euro 2016. It was the first time the two countries had ever met in the knockout stage of a major tournament and both sets of supporters were determined to enjoy the occasion. Welsh wizard Gareth Bale was once again the focus of attention as he looked to add to his three tournament goals so far, but in the first 45 minutes he hardly got a kick of the ball, as the Irish doubled-up on the Real Madrid striker to nullify any advances. It was Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey who stole the show early on, showing some deft touches in an otherwise frantic game where neither side looked like breaking the deadlock. The second-half pretty much carried on in the same vain as the fear of losing overtook the desire to push for the winner but when it finally did arrive, it was that man Bale who was at the heart of the move as he fired a teasing cross into the area, only for the unfortunate Gareth McAuley to put the ball into his own net. The dragon continues to roar and they now head to Lille on Friday to face Belgium.



On paper, it looked like being one of the stand-out matches of the last 16 at Euro 2016 but in truth, Croatia v Portugal was a dire contest, devoid of any real goalmouth action until the closing minutes of extra-time. The regulation time did not produce a single shot on target; unthinkable when you have players of the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric on show, but CR7 looked out of sorts once again and his Real Madrid teammate Modric seemed to be suffering the effects of a muscle injury which forced him to miss the final group game against Spain. The first period of extra-time did little to suggest that either side were going to be brave enough to chase a winning goal but in the dying seconds, a Croatian corner was headed goalwards by Ivan Perisic only for the Inter player to see it come back off the post. The Portuguese broke quickly on the counter-attack and when Nani centred for Ronaldo; his shot could only be palmed away by goalkeeper Danijel Subašić, straight onto the grateful head of substitute Riccardo Quaresma, who had the easiest job of guiding the ball home. Incredibly, in a match of few chances, Croatia almost scored a dramatic equaliser right on the final whistle but Dynamo Kiev defender Domagoj Vida saw his shot go agonisingly past the post. Portugal now head south to Marseille to face Poland in the first quarter-final on Thursday.


Steve Mitchell @barafundler