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Euro 2016: Portugal clinches semi-final spot with win over Poland in penalty shootout

Portugal has qualified for the semi-finals of the Euro 2016 after winning a dramatic penalty shootout against Poland last night (June 30) at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.

The match was historic in the sense that Portugal became the first team to reach a Euro semi-final without winning a match in the 90 minutes.

Depending on one’s point of view, this can interpreted as a sign of a very lucky or very practical team. The truth is that Portugal is just one more win away from the Euro 2016 final.

However, the game did not start off well for the national team.

Just two minutes in and Robert Lewandowski had already netted his first goal in the tournament, putting Poland ahead on the scoreboard.

With Cristiano Ronaldo far from top-form, it was up to 18-year-old wonder kid Renato Sanches to push the Portuguese team forward.

His effort was duly rewarded at the 33th minute when he scored a powerful shot from outside the box that was deflected by a defender before flying into the Polish net.

Sanches became the youngest Portuguese player ever to score a goal in a Euro competition and showed the world why Bayern Munich paid Benfica around €35 million (plus €45 million in add-ons) to sign him.

With the score at 1-1, both teams adopted more cautious strategies – though Portugal always seemed to be the most ambitious side on the pitch.

But with neither team being able to score again in the 90 minutes or in the additional half hour of overtime, the match had to be decided in a penalty shootout.

Portugal and Poland had scored all of their penalties when Jakub Blaszczykowski allowed his kick to be saved by a diving Rui Patrício, giving Ricardo Quaresma a chance to be the hero of the match once again (after heading the winner against Croatia) and score the final penalty that put Portugal through to the semis.

It is the fifth time that Portugal reaches this stage of the Euro.

Up next is either Wales or Belgium, who face each other tonight at 8pm.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com