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Ronaldo sends Portugal into Euro final


Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani have struck in quick succession early in the second half to fire Portugal to a 2-0 win over Wales in the first Euro 2016 semi-final.

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After a tense and tactical first half overnight, Ronaldo broke the deadlock five minutes after the re-start when he leapt majestically to head Raphael Guerreiro’s pinpoint cross into the net following a short corner.

Ronaldo inadvertently set up the second three minutes later with a mis-hit shot which Nani deflected past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Ronaldo and Nani each took their tallies in the tournament to three goals as Portugal won a game inside 90 minutes for the first time at Euro 2016.

Portugal, who also reached the European Championship final in 2004 when they lost to Greece, will play Germany or France in the final on Sunday.

German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger will lead his side against France in tonight’s semi-final in Marseille after recovering from a knock to his injury-prone right knee.

“Schweinsteiger will definitely start,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.

“He has the physical conditioning and strength to play from the beginning. His experience is hugely important in such a cauldron.”

The 31-year-old Schweinsteiger strained a ligament in his knee in Saturday’s quarter-final win over Italy, but came through Wednesday’s training session without any problems, before the squad left its tournament base for Marseille.

“He was able to do everything in the final training session today without any complaints at all. He’s cured the injury,” Loew said.

“If he isn’t quite fit enough we have a lot of options to substitute him.”

Defender Benedikt Hoewedes also trained Wednesday after sitting out the previous day’s session.

Germany will certainly be without striker Mario Gomez and midfielder Sami Khedira through injury, and defender Mats Hummels, who is suspended.

Gomez is out for the rest of the tournament after tearing a muscle in his right thigh in the win over Italy, while Khedira faces a race against time to be fit for a possible final appearance with a groin injury from the same game.

Despite the absences, Germany forward Thomas Mueller believes the side has more than enough strength in depth to be able to compensate, and that it has nothing to fear against France.

“Fear has no place in the team,” Mueller said.

“Of course France didn’t reach the semi-final through luck, but because they have a lot of class.

“We have respect, but I’m always optimistic that we’ll find solutions, even when we have absences. I don’t think we’ve ever been as well-covered with the players waiting to come in.”

Germany is bidding to follow its World Cup win with its fourth European title and its first since 1996.

“France are under a bit of pressure because they’re hosts,” Mueller said.

“They know they’re playing against an excellent Germany team. France-Germany, they were two of the favourites already beforehand. And now they meet in the semi-final. You don’t have many better football games.”

-AP, Reuters

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