Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Last Four, Part one

I have to start with an apology to those loyal readers, who were waiting for my preview of the France-Iceland game, no excuses, just sorry. 

Iceland have been one of the feel good stories of this tournament. We shall especially miss the Viking like synchronized thunderclap of their fans, which makes one realize how scary it must have been to stand in a Saxon shield wall as the giant tattooed men advanced towards them.


The French, to give them credit, just to show that one is not prejudiced, showed how to play against a side as technically limited as Iceland as they brushed them aside, in a manner that England could not do.

So we are now left with four teams, today Portugal will be against the  fiery Welsh dragons in the first semi- final and then tomorrow, the hosts France, are once more preparing to repel the invasion from the East of the relentless Nationalmannschaft.

Wales is not a country, as we have already mentioned, that is known for its football. It is much more famous for its rugby. It is a beautiful country, full of rolling green hills and deep valleys, and lots of sheep just trying to mind their own business. Wales is known for its male voice choirs, its coal pits and for having the railway station with the longest name in the world, try pronouncing it, it could lead to hours of entertainment. "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogo". 

Tonight those valleys will be awash with beer, the male voice choirs will reach fever pitch and along with the sheep, they will all be praying for a Welsh victory to prolong the dream until the final on Sunday. In the case of defeat the sheep will be hoping for the game to go to penalties at least, so that they will have a few more minutes of peace before they become the main focal point of interest of the rather inebriated Welsh male.

Portugal is, in a different way, also a beautiful country, not as green as it has less rain, but again lots of rolling hills. Portugal produces more than half of the cork in the world, which is then used to to stop up the bottles of fine port wine which takes it name from the country.It is famous for its very good sardines.

Judging by the list of things I have mentioned for both countries, you may be thinking, these two countries do not actually sound very exciting and you would probably be correct. 
In fact the last two most significant events which happened in either country were disasters. The earthquake and ensuing Tsunami of 1755 which destroyed most of Lisbon and killed between 10,000 to 100,000 people in Lisbon alone and the Aberfan pit disaster in 1966 where a pile of coal waste slipped and sent 116 children and 28 adults to their death. 

However at this moment in time, they have managed to produce, two of the best footballers of the current crop.

In reality, this game will probably be decided by whom from Christiano Ronaldo for Portugal, the man who loves to rip off his shirt to show off his upper body, a sight which excites as I have already written, all sectors of society, or Gareth Bale for Wales, who tends to get the inhabitants of the monkey park all in a state due to his rather similar appearance to a chimpanzee.

There are a number of similarities between these two players,
they play for the same club side Real Madrid, they are both nominally wing players, both take the free kicks which are in shooting distance of the goal, or in the case of Ronaldo, those which are too far from the goal to be realistic chances to score but that does not seem to deter him.

However, despite all that, this game is being described in the football world as the battle between the two.  In reality, Ronaldo does not like Bale, he probably feels threatened by him. 
Ronaldo sees Bale as a threat to his hegemony at Madrid. Ronaldo became the world's most expensive footballer when he moved to Madrid, until according to many reports he was eclipsed in that position by Bale when he also moved to Madrid.

People have lost count of the number of free kicks that Ronaldo has taken at the Euro's without scoring. Bale has already scored two.

A lot of people while admiring Ronaldo's talent do not like his personality, his flashiness, his long list of beautiful ex girlfriends, the list is endless. Most of this is just probably jealousy, but be that it as it may, the twitter world will be alive tonight with such subjects as #ronaldotears with people hoping for him to cry and sharing their dislike for him.

Bale on the other hand is the nice boy from next door, he has two daughters with his partner Emma Rhys Jones (you can't get a more Welsh name than that) his childhood sweetheart from Cardiff, he is perceived as rather innocent, you rarely hear a bad word against him.

The result tonight will not resolve the argument as to who is a greater player, both these teams rely heavily on their main superstar. What can be safely said though is that the players around Bale in the Welsh team are in general of a lower level of ability than those in the Portuguese team surrounding Ronaldo, therefore the achievement of Bale is the greater.

Just one other football related thing. Portugal have become the first team to ever reach a semi final of a major competition without winning a game in the regulation 90 minutes. They drew their first three games, beat Croatia with a goal in the 116 minute (their first shot on target in all that time) and then beat Poland on penalties. Wales by contrast have won four of their five games with a solitary defeat to England which seems so long ago.

This is a very hard game to call, it is just too mind blowing to imagine Wales reaching the final, but Portugal are not very good. Flip a coin to decide and let us hope it is not the lottery of penalties that does decide.

Tchau or Hwyl Fawr depending on what country you are from until tomorrow. (see if you can guess which is Welsh and which Portuguese)

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