Both Wales and Portugal are relatively small coastal nations that have spent much of their history tangled up with their larger and more powerful neighbors to the east. But whereas rugby-mad Wales has accomplished little as a team in football despite producing world-class footballers like John Charles, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, and now Gareth Bale, football-mad Portugal has traditionally ridden stars like Eusébio, Rui Jordão, Luis Figo, and now Cristiano Ronaldo to the very brink of glory at international tournaments. Each country came into yesterday’s semi-final with different expectations. For Portugal it was pure nerves over whether their team would finally cash in on its talent, for Wales it was profound respect and gratitude for an unprecedented adventure. Let’s take a look at how the papers reacted:
Portugal’s O Jogo celebrates the team reaching its 2nd Euro Final in 12 years with “Beautiful.” The quotes reflect a country already looking past the result to think about the final as Ronaldo says, “I believe that we can go win in Paris” while manager Fernando Santos tells the paper “With this team spirit, anything is possible!”
The Jornal de Notícias emphasizes a euphoric Ronaldo by referencing Walt Whitman (via Robin Williams) with “Yesssssss, my captain!” Below, Fernando Santos is quoted even more decisively than in O Jogo as he says, “The Finals are not to play in, they are to win!”
The best Portuguese cover of the day is Record’s two-page wraparound splash showcasing Ronaldo’s epic header with the words “An Immortal Flight”
A Bola expresses how its nation feels about its team on the verge of a Paris final with the French phrase that needs no translation. Ronaldo is then quoted as saying, “These players deserve it, I deserve it, Portugal deserves it!”
Spain’s AS honors the star that made Real Madrid a power again, recognizing that he carried his country to the final while surpassing France’s Michel Platini’s goal-scoring record.
England’s The Sun tries to glom onto Wales’ glory with its hyped “Pride of Britain” insert while showing sympathy with a clever headline.
The Daily Express goes the stereotypical route.
In Wales it was all about the wrap-around cover wrapping up a historic journey that ended in honor rather than heartbreak. The Western Mail references the Manic Street Preachers’ Welsh summer anthem “Together Stronger” in honoring its heroes.
The South Wales Echo reflected an entire nation holding its head high despite the loss.
It’s appropriate to end with Tuesday’s Western Mail edition from before the match. It leads with Chris Coleman’s quote that defines what following football is all about, “Don’t be afraid to have dreams.”
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