Friday, 8 July 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo sounds final bugle after Portugal defeat Wales to enter title clash

The ball soared in front of the goal and Cristiano Ronaldo jumped, his body hanging in the air for what felt like one beat, two beats, three beats, four. His chest was pitched. His back was arched. His eyes were forward, locked on the target.
Then, just as a Slinky hops down a staircase - its coils bending in one direction before whipping forward over the threshold - Ronaldo simply unspooled. The contact was flawless.
A sweetly struck free kick or a long, dipping drive has poetry, but there is nothing quite like the way a ball compresses when it rebounds from a man's skull. Ronaldo snapped his neck, and the ball, as if it had engines attached, whizzed past the goalkeeper and rippled the net.
The Wales defenders, beaten, dropped their heads. Ronaldo, gleaming, took off running. It was a sumptuous goal on a largely bland evening, but it was the opening that was needed. Portugal, led by Ronaldo, their enigmatic captain, secured a place in the final of the European Championships with a 2-0 victory over Wales on Wednesday at the Stade des Lumieres. Ronaldo, who tied Michel Platini's record of nine career goals in the Euros, will now have another chance to deliver a first major tournament trophy to Portugal, 12 years after he and his teammates lost in the final of the 2004 Euros. For Wales and their superstar, Gareth Bale, the loss was an agonising end to a surprising run that has captivated a nation and beyond."The players are gutted," Wales Manager Chris Coleman said. "It still hurts." No one could argue that Wales's run was anything less than remarkable. For Portugal, however, the scale was different, and winning this match meant something else.Portugal's players celebrated at the final whistle, but there were no histrionics or wild dances. Portugal has made it to at least the quarterfinals of every Euros since 1996, and this was their third semifinal appearance in that span, all strong performances that ultimately ended without a trophy.

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