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Thursday, 7 July 2016
Ronaldo and Nani sink Wales as Portugal sails to final of Euro 2016
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 06: Gareth Bale (C) and Wales players and staffs applaud the fans after their defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 semi final match between Portugal and Wales at Stade des Lumieres on July 6, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Here, Press Association Sport's Simon Peach looks at how the most expensive players in football history fared in Lyon.
Bale is widely recognised as far more of a team player than Ronaldo and has led by example in France. The winning mentality instilled in him at the Bernabeu was evident again tonight, looking Wales' most dangerous player and working hard off the ball.
Even if he was not wearing the armband, Ronaldo would be Portugal's talisman. In a squad comprised mainly of young talent and wily old-timers, his presence is key and his threat in every aspect of attack was seen at the Stade de Lyon. Furthermore, the attention Wales paid to him afforded more space to his team-mates.
Bale burst into life after 20 minutes, fizzing in crosses that required some last-ditch defending, while his directness and unpredictability caused some hairy moments for Portugal. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio had to be alert on several occasions to keep the Welsh forward at bay.
Ronaldo was a nuisance from the outset and ultimately proved Wales' undoing. A frustrating first half was quickly forgotten when powering home a superb header shortly after the break, with his fizzing effort turned home by Nani to give Portugal what proved a winning two-goal margin. Ronaldo did not stop there, though, as he kept pestering until the end.
MOMENT OF MAGIC
The outstanding moment for Bale was the lung-busting run that started in his own half, seeing him power away from Portuguese attention, cutting inside and taking aim. Unfortunately, the finish was not as impressive as the run.
Headers often do not qualify as magical moments, but the importance and class of Ronaldo's goal certainly did. The leap was incredible as was the power he generated in beating Wayne Hennessey.
Bale made a bigger contribution to his country across Euro 2016, but Ronaldo was the star man in Lyon. The Wales attacker shone brightest in the opening period, only for the 31-year-old to underline his world-class talents after the break. Ronaldo's is now joint with Michel Platini as the highest scorer in European Championship history and has led his country to just their second-ever major tournament final. The pair embraced at the final whistle.