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Clinical Portugal begin to dream after denting Welsh pride

Football Soccer - Portugal v Wales - EURO 2016 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 6/7/16 Portugal players celebrate at the end of the game REUTERS/Robert Pratta Livepic
Football Soccer - Portugal v Wales - EURO 2016 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 6/7/16Portugal players celebrate at the end of the gameREUTERS/Robert PrattaLivepic

LYON, France (Reuters) - Portugal's players began to look forward to their first European Championship final in 12 years after Cristiano Ronaldo led his team's effort to end the fairytale Welsh story at Euro 2016.

Ronaldo and Nani scored early in the second half to earn Portugal a 2-0 win.

"We've been dreaming about this from the start. We knew it would be a long way but we've fought all the way," said man-of-the-match Ronaldo.

"But like I always say, it's better to start badly and finish well. We haven't won anything but the dream is still there."

With Portugal scoring two goals early in the second half and Wales lacking the guile of Aaron Ramsey in midfield, the Welsh never looked like getting back into the game.

"We are massively disappointed obviously but we have given everything on and off the pitch," forward Gareth Bale said.

"We tried our hardest to get back in the game. They shut up shop well but we have no regrets. We are very proud. We will pick ourselves up. Nobody expected us to this far but we did."

Portugal's victory put them through to their first European Championship final since 2004 where they will face France or Germany as they bid to end their long search for a major international trophy.

Forward Nani, who scored the other goal, dismissed suggestions that Portugal had been lucky to get to the final after a string of uninspired performances in the tournament.

"We cannot pick and choose our opponents," he said. "We have to believe in ourselves and play our best."

Former Welsh striker John Hartson said his team had probably just run out of steam.

"The Wales fans, players, staff have had some huge, momentous moments in this tournament," Hartson said.

"One was beating Russia, the other beating Belgium, when we were magnificent. But tonight looked just like one game too far."

(Writing by John Irish, editing by Ed Osmond)

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