Gareth Bale has questioned the UEFA rules that will leave Wales without key men Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies for their Euro 2016 semi-final against Portugal in Lyon.
Ramsey took up Bale’s customary role of talisman in the quarter-final against Belgium last Friday, turning in a virtuoso performance in the 3-1 win.
But the Arsenal midfielder and Tottenham defender Davies both collected a second booking of the tournament in that memorable triumph, making them unavailable for the most important match in Welsh football history.
“It’s horrible,” said Bale, lamenting their fate – one also suffered by Portugal midfielder William Carvalho
“The rules are difficult to take, sometimes you wish at this stage of tournament yellow cards would be wiped.
“You feel for them and they’ll be hurt, but they’re not showing it and they’ve given us more motivation to win so they can play again.
“We’re playing for the nation and the badge but also for them.”
The match is being billed as a showdown between Real Madrid superstars Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo but the Welshman believes the potential absence of another Bernabeu man for Portugal could have a significant impact.
Centre-back Pepe missed training on Monday due to a thigh complaint.
“Firstly he’s a fantastic player. He’s incredible for Real Madrid, professional and a great man who’s been very good to me.
“He’ll be a big loss if he’s not fit but if he does play he’ll make it difficult.”
While Wales are breaching new ground, Portugal are in the semi-finals for the fifth time in their previous seven attempts at the European Championships, but Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes rejects the notion of them being favourites.
“I never heard of favouritism in the semi-finals,” he said. “If they came here is because they have merit.
“There are no favourites. The squads arrive here with all the credit. We will try to give our maximum, as well as them.”
Gomes missed out when Portugal – who are still yet to win a game inside 90 minutes at the tournament – overcame Poland on penalties due to a thigh problem but the 22-year-old is confident he can play a part at the Stade de Lyon.
“Physical problems are things we have no control over,” he added. “I have tried to improve every day and now I am feeling better.
“I have already returned to training with my team-mates. Now I will try to improve until the next game to give my contribution, on or off the pitch.”
Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams is favourite to edge out Leicester City’s Andy King as Ramsey’s replacement, while Fulham’s Jazz Richards could come in for Davies, with Chris Gunter moving inside from right wing-back.
Danilo is expected to get the nod in the holding role for Portugal with Carvalho unavailable.
Key Opta stats:
-Portugal have played the most games (33) in the history of the European Championship without being lifting the trophy. They lost in the final against Greece in 2004.
– Fernando Santos is unbeaten in his 12 competitive fixtures as Portugal boss, with all eight of their wins during this time coming by a single goal.
– Only France have scored more goals (11) than Wales’ 10 at Euro 2016.
– Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored two goals in 13 knockout games at major tournaments. He has failed to score with any of his 41 direct free-kicks at major tournaments.
– Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale has scored with two of his five direct free-kicks attempted with Wales at Euro 2016 and has registered more shots on target (14) than any other player at the tournament on his way to three goals.
– Wales will be without suspended midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has scored or assisted five of the last international eight goals netted by Welsh players.
– Hal Robson-Kanu has scored as many international goals in his last four games with Wales as he had in his previous 30.
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