Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Portugal v. Wales

Portugal and Wales will be kicking off their European Semi-Final Match in 45 minutes.  Here's how Portugal got here:

Group Stage:
06/14:  Portugal 1 - 1 Iceland
06/18:  Portugal 0 - 0 Austria
06/22:  Hungary 3 - 3 Portugal
(Portugal advance as one of the four best third-place teams)

Knockout Rounds:
06/25:  Croatia 0 - 1 Portugal
06/30:  Poland 1 - 1 Portugal (Portugal win 5-3 on penalties)

And here is the Portugal lineup, along with their clubs and leagues:

Goalkeeper:  Rui Patricio (Sporting C.P.) (Portugal)

Defender:  Cedric (Southampton) (England)
Defender:  Bruno Alves (Cagliari) (Italy)
Defender:  Jose Fonte (Southampton) (England)
Defender:  Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) (Germany)

Midfielder:  Danilo (Porto) (Portugal)
Midfielder:  Joao Mario (Sporting C.P.) (Portugal)
Midfielder:  Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) (Germany)
Midfielder:  Adrien Silva (Sporting C.P.) (Portugal)

Forward:  Nani (Valencia) (Spain) (vice-captain)
Forward:  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) (Spain) (captain)

Ronaldo is, of course, one of the greatest players in the world -- and Gareth Bale's teammate.  This whole match is like a game between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in which they can only play with teammates from their home states.  (That would be amazing.)

OK, here's how Wales got here:

Group Stage:
06/11:  Wales 2 - 1 Slovakia
06/16:  England 2 - 1 Wales
06/20:  Russia 0 - 3 Wales
(Wales advance as winners of Group B)

Knockout Rounds:
06/25:  Wales 1 - 0 N. Ireland
07/01:  Wales 3 - 1 Belgium

Wales's second-best player, Aaron Ramsey, is out of this game for collecting too many yellow cards.  The same thing happened to Ben Davies, one of Wales's best defenders.  Interestingly, the United States lost some of its best players for the same reason in the semi-finals of this year's Copa America.  The Americans were crushed 4-0 by Argentina; we will hope Wales holds up better.  Anyway, here's who Wales will start:

Goalkeeper:  Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace) (England)

Defender:  James Chester (West Bromwich Albion) (England)
Defender:  Ashley Williams (Swansea City) (England) (captain)
Defender:  James Collins (West Ham Utd) (England)
Defender:  Chris Gunter (Reading) (England)
Defender:  Neil Taylor (Swansea City) (England)

Midfielder:  Joe Allen (Liverpool) (England)
Midfielder:  Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace) (England) (vice-captain)
Midfielder:  Andy King (Leicester City) (England)

Forward:  Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) (Spain)
Forward:  Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading) (England)

(Robson-Kanu is technically unattached to any team right now, but he played for Reading last season.)


  1. Wales has a population of 3,063,000.

    Portugal has a population of 10,460,000.

  2. The 1970 desk will be standing down from its Senators-Yankees game during this match.

    "Robson-Kanu" and Robinson Cano ... that's really weird.

  3. Here's the Welsh coach, speaking in terms that everyone in Kentucky will recognize:

    “We can’t come off with any regrets. It’s an old saying but it’s true: give it everything you’ve got. If that’s not enough, you shake hands with the opposition and that’s it. But if we bring it - and we can - we’ve got a real good chance.”

  4. Halftime:

    Portugal 0 - 0 Wales

    Very even first half.

  5. And there, right there! That man, Cristiano Ronaldo. He is one of the legends of the game -- an all-time great -- and he just broke this game open with a magnificent header! After 50 minutes, Portugal lead 1-0.

  6. And suddenly Portugal strike again! In the 53d minute, a shot from Ronaldo falls in front of Nani, who slots home a second goal for Portugal.

    Suddenly Portugal lead 2-0 after 53 minutes.

  7. In the 57th minute, Wales pulls midfielder Joe Ledley and replaces him with Sam Vokes, a forward who plays for Burnley. That leaves Wales with three forwards and only two midfielders. The most likely outcome of this move is that Portgual will score even more goals. But Wales has to take chances now.

  8. By the way, Wales and Portugal both normally wear red. Since Wales is the visiting team today, they are wearing their alternate uniform, which appears to be black with green trim. But Portugal has come out in some sort of lime green uniform with dark green trim. So both teams look awful.

  9. The Guardian writes: "Bale won the first half; Ronaldo is romping in the second."

  10. In the 62d minute, Ronaldo had a chance for another goal, but his free kick from 28 meters out sails over the crossbar.

    And that's all for Hal Robson-Kanu. He is replaced by Simon Church, a forward for Milton Keynes Dons.

  11. It's amazing in soccer how hard it apparently is to get to the point that you actually get to kick the ball at the goal, much less get it in.

    1. See my note below about how soccer rewards skill over effort.

  12. In the 65th minute, Wales makes its last substitution, pulling defender James Collins and replacing him with midfielder Jonathan Williams (of Crystal Palace). So Wales now have 4 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 3 forwards.

  13. In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Western Kentucky beat Drake 101-99 in overtime. Then they beat San Diego 72-63 to reach the Sweet 16 -- where they played UCLA, the number-one seed. UCLA won 88-78, but WKU hung in there until the end. This game feels a lot like that one.

  14. 75 minutes:

    Portugal 2 - 0 Wales

    It's a real shame that Wales had to lose to players to yellow cards -- we'll never know what they could have done at full strength.

  15. Portgual, on the other hand, will get to play for the European Championships after beating Croatia, Poland, and Wales. That's good fortune; but you still have to take advantage -- just ask England, who couldn't get past Iceland in the first round.

  16. 80 minutes:

    Portugal 2 - 0 Wales

    ESPN just noted that Wales has the smallest population of any team to reach the European semi-finals.

    I used to wonder why soccer players didn't take more really long shots -- shots from about 30 yards out or so. I figured, why not take a chance? With time running out, Bale is now firing shots from all over the pitch. He hasn't scored, but nothing else was working anyway.

  17. 90 minutes:

    Portugal 2 - 0 Wales

    3 minutes of injury time.

  18. Every sport requires a mix of effort and skill. I don't think there is another team sport that gives more reward to skill, and less to effort, than soccer. You can run as hard as you want, but if you can't make the ball do amazing things with your feet, you don't get much of a reward.

    1. This is an excellent, excellent observation.

      I do wonder, though, what Rick Pitino might come up with as a soccer-coaching strategy if President Obama gave him a grant for the next four years to figure it out. Without knowing anything about the game beyond what I read at the HP and watching 30 minutes of a match once every year or two, I wonder if the U.S. opportunity is to build on our differentiator of cultural forgiveness for failure.

  19. Peep! Peep!

    Full time: Portugal 2 - 0 Wales

    If Wales had to lose, I'm really glad it wasn't on penalty kicks.