Footballing great Diego Maradona believes Gareth Bale has contributed more to Wales’ progress than Cristiano Ronaldo has for Portugal at EURO 2016.
Real Madrid team-mates Bale and Ronaldo will go head-to-head in a blockbuster semi-final in Lyon on Thursday morning.
Bale and Wales have taken the European Championship by storm, Chris Coleman’s men entertaining all the way to the final four, with the former’s three goals aiding their cause.
The same cannot be said about Portugal, who have stifled their way to the semis, drawing all five games in regulation time.
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has scored two goals, though he has often cut a frustrated figured in France.
“This will also be a clash between the left and right flanks of Real Madrid,” Maradona wrote in his column for the Times of India.
“It’s a team game, where you do look up to individuals like Ronaldo and Bale, if you have them. Ball control, speed and shooting make them special.
“Their contributions will always be crucial because they can create that decisive moment. So far, Bale has contributed more to his team’s progress than Portugal have got from Ronaldo.”
Maradona added: “It would have amused many before the tournament, had they been told about a Wales versus Portugal semi-final. Quarter-finalists in their only World Cup appearance in 1958, the Red Dragons have looked like anything but novices in their first Euro finals.
“All European teams have a sense of positional discipline and Wales is no exception. Chris Coleman’s boys have adapted well to the modern 3-5-2 formation. Blessed with a dash of talent up front, they prefer creating chances on the break.
“Average in comparison against others in the last four, Portugal have taken the difficult route and are still to win in regulation time after five matches. But they have displayed tactical maturity in a 4-1-3-2 system in reaching this stage for the fourth time in five editions since 2000.
“Talisman [Ronaldo] largely off colour, the rest have made up for it by playing for each other, an invaluable trait in major knockouts.
“Coming this far without too much from their star shows Portugal’s strength in unity. Young Renato Sanches has belied age to become a massive presence in midfield, with Pepe providing solidity at the back. It’s difficult to pick favourites at this stage, but Wales start with an edge. But individual spark often becomes decisive. Portugal have someone capable of providing that. At 31, he would be wondering if this is his last shot at international glory.”