Almost 12 years to the day Portugal fell in the European Championship final on home soil, it’s earned the opportunity to play for the continent’s top prize again.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani scored three minutes apart in the second half, and Portugal beat Wales 2-0 in Lyon, France, in their Euro 2016 semifinal bout. Portugal will play for the title on Sunday, while Wales falls short of reaching its first major final ever. The semifinal appearance was the furthest the nation has ever advanced.
Both sides were missing key players, as Portugal was without the injured Pepe and suspended William Carvalho, while Wales had to replace its key suspended duo of Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies.
Amid a cagey, overcautious first half, Ronaldo thought he had earned a penalty early on, but no call was given after James Collins–in the Wales lineup in place for Davies–appeared to pull him down from around the neck:
Ronaldo eventually had his decisive say, scoring off a corner kick early in the second half. He delivered a trademark header in the 50th minute to give Portugal the lead and pull even with Michel Platini for the most goals in Euro history with nine. He was already the first player in history to score in four European Championships.
Three minutes later, Nani made it 2-0. Ronaldo’s long-range shot was redirected in by the new Valencia signing, putting Portugal in complete control.
Ronaldo nearly made it 3-0 10 minutes later with a wicked free kick but he buzzed it over the bar. It’s the 42nd consecutive free kick Ronaldo has taken at a major tournament without scoring. He missed another in stoppage time for good measure to make it 43 in a row.
Some of the best action happened on the field before the opening kick, where young stadium workers bugged Ronaldo for a selfie and a hug and another crashed Portugal’s team starting lineup photo.
Portugal awaits the winner of Thursday’s France-Germany semifinal in Sunday’s battle for the trophy at the Stade de France. It will be Portugal’s second final appearance ever, after the 2004 one, which resulted in Greece capping a shock run by beating the hosts–and a 19-year-old Ronaldo–1-0.