Football

Porous Portugal

Wales legend Rush says Wales can exploit their dodgy defence

Wales can exploit Portugal's shaky backline and earn a place in the Euro 2016 final, according to record goalscorer Ian Rush.

The Liverpool and Wales legend told goal.com: "Portugal's weakness is that the defence find it hard to keep a clean sheet, so they will let in goals.

"We are confident because we have a great team spirit, but (suspended Aaron) Ramsey will be missed for his goals."

Former England midfielder Paul Merson, too, believes Wales will miss Ramsey, but not as much as Portugal will miss doubtful defender Pepe if he doesn't recover in time for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) semi-final.

He told Sky Sports: "I think if Pepe doesn't play for Portugal then it's a major loss. I know people say he acts up on the pitch but he is a good, good defender and I think he'll be badly missed if he doesn't play.

"Portugal haven't won a game yet, not in 90 minutes.

"I don't fancy them at all."

Pepe's teammate Andre Gomes also opined that the Real Madrid man could be a big loss if he doesn't recover, saying: "He's a fantastic player... He'll be a big loss if he's not fit."

ONE CLEAN SHEET

Portugal have conceded five goals in their five Euro 2016 matches, keeping a clean sheet only in their 1-0 Round-of-16 extra-time triumph over Croatia, a match that saw only one shot on target - the winner.

Portugal No. 1 Rui Patricio, however, believes that far from being shaky at the back, defensive solidity is a strength of his side.

He told Uefa's official website: "Logically, the better the team defend, the easier it is to win a match.

"The whole team have been fantastic in the way they work, not only in training but also during matches.

"It has been a very strong and united squad, not just the defensive players but the entire group.

"And in terms of organisation, we have been very good.

"That is why we are about to play a semi-final."

However, legendary French manager Guy Roux, who managed Auxerre for an astonishing 46 years, said Rui Patricio and Co were an ordinary team.

He told Romanian website Dolce Sport: "Portugal do not look great.

"The Portuguese have one big player, who can do everything by himself (in Cristiano Ronaldo). Otherwise, it is just a regular team."

Ronaldo, however, has largely struggled at Euro 2016 - aside from his two-goal salvo against Hungary in the group stage.

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, who played alongside the 31-year-old at Manchester United and Wales' own superstar Gareth Bale on national duty, told CNN that on current form, he would want the Welsh Dragon in his team over the Portugal No. 7.

World Cup, European Championship and Champions League winner Christian Karembeu went one step further, saying Bale was as good as Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.

The former France and Real player told Press Association Sport: "Come on, he is already there (at Messi and Ronaldo's level).

"He is already there, there's no steps for him to go because he's very clever, first of all...

LEADER

"And also because you can see he is a leader... and this is good for Wales."

Bale, though, played down the showdown with his Real teammate, saying: "For me, that (talk of his rivalry with Ronaldo) doesn't matter too much.

"It's about Wales v Portugal. It's about 11 v 11. It's about the best team on the night, not the best individuals." - Wire Services.


BY THE numbers 

12

Fernando Santos is unbeaten in his 12 competitive matches as Portugal manager, with all eight of their victories during his tenure coming by a single goal.

sportsFootballEuro 2016Ian Rushgareth baleUncategorisedPaul MersonGUY ROUXRyan GiggsWaleseurope