Portugal plot another escape


July 06, 2016
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after winning the Euro 2016 quarterfinal match between Poland and Portugal, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France last Thursday.

LYON, France (AP):

Don't let Cristiano Ronaldo's devilish grin and chiseled torso fool you. Portugal are the undisputed ugly ducklings of the four teams left standing at the European Championship.

While semifinal rivals Wales, along with Germany and France, have all impressed with big wins to deservedly reach this stage, Portugal have only joined them after barely squeaking through each round.

And unless Ronaldo can rediscover his scoring touch, Portugal will struggle to find a way past an attack fuelled by Gareth Bale when they play Wales at the Stade de Lyon today.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos, however, doesn't care about style or statistics.

"I would be bothered if I was at home and they were saying Portugal had played well but was no longer at the Euro," Santos said. "We have a goal and we are doing all we can to achieve it. We are not here to play pretty or ugly.

"We are going to take on excellent opponents who have more victories and scored more goals than we have, but we believe we are going to win."

How Santos' side has managed to reach their fourth semifinal appearance in the last five continental competitions is something of a mystery.

extra-time goal

Portugal have yet to beat an opponent in 90 minutes of regulation play after five matches at Euro 2016.

Portugal limped into the round-of-16 after three draws, finishing third in Group F behind Hungary and Iceland. They then needed an extra-time goal from Ricardo Quaresma to see off Croatia 1-0 in one of the poorest matches of the tournament. Next came a quarterfinal against Poland that Portugal claimed in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 finish after 120 minutes.

All told, Portugal have been in the lead for a total of 22 minutes over the course of more than eight hours of football in France.

Yet, here they are, one win away from the final in Paris on July 10.

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