Ben Wills takes us through the heroes and villains of the Semi Finals of Euro 2016.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – Hero
Cristiano Ronaldo is a much-maligned figure, but as much as people want to hate him, the talent of the man cannot be denied.
His tournament has slowly been quite an impressive one and his display in Portugal’s semi-final win over Wales was his best outing to date at the Euros.
A bullet header from the male model turned footballer gave Portugal the lead and moments later a shot from Ronaldo was turned in by ex-Manchester United teammate Nani to wake the Welsh up from their dreams.
Gareth Bale (Wales) – Villain
Bale may have scored three goals in six games but his performances this summer on the whole have been below par for the majority.
He was by no means “bad” in the semi-final against Portugal – far from it – but his constant shots from range may have frustrated his colleagues.
The efforts on goal did cause Rui Patricio some bother, however when chances are limited, they need to be taken. For Wales, they were not and the team found themselves on the next plane home.
Antoine Griezmann (France) – Hero
Prior to the knock-out rounds, Antoine Griezmann had just one goal in the Euros. Going into the final, the Atletico Madrid man now has six and looks a certainty for the Golden Boot.
France’s top forward netted a first half penalty in the semi-final against Germany and then bundled in his and France’s second to send them through to their third tournament final on home soil.
Griezmann has become the first player to score more than five goals at a European Championships since Michel Platini at Euro ’84 – a competition that was hosted by France, and won by France.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) – Villain
Germany seemed in control of their semi-final until the closing stages of the first 45 minutes, and then Bastian Schweinsteiger gave away a penalty with a cheap handball.
The Germans have had a problem with wandering hands this tournament. Jogi Loew was spotted sticking his hands down his trousers, and Jerome Boateng, like Schweinsteiger, committed a handball to give Italy a penalty in the quarter-final.
Griezmann scored the spot-kick, Germany had to chase the game in the second half and they failed, which meant that the world champions were out.
Paul Pogba (France) – Hero
The second of Griezmann’s two goals may not have happened if Manuel Neuer had not got a big bump from Olivier Giroud, but without a beautiful bit of skill from Paul Pogba it certainly would not have happened.
Pogba, who is apparently in talks to re-join Manchester United for around £100 million, left Shkodran Mustafi for dead prior to assisting Griezmann with a floated cross.
Juventus’ poster boy flicked his leg twice then turned Mustafi inside out and the ball was in the back of the net before the German remembered what day it was. Magnifique.
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