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Ronaldo inspires Portugal to win over Wales

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his third goal of the tournament. Reuters/John Sibley

Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo notched up a record-equalling ninth European Championship goal to help his side past Wales on Wednesday night and into the Euro 2016 final.

Five minutes into the second-half, Ronaldo rose above defender James Chester to head the ball powerfully past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy to register his country's first goal at the Stade de Lyon.

Three minutes later Nani deflected Ronaldo’s drive into the penalty area past a wrong-footed Hennessy. It finished 2-0.

"The team did a marvellous job to reach the final," said Ronaldo, who as a 19-year-old wept on the pitch in Lisbon after Portugal lost 1-0 to Greece in the Euro 2004 final. “I hope on Sunday that you'll see me crying with joy," he added.

"I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal. I hope it is our time now. I deserve it. Portugal deserves it. All the Portugese people deserve it."

After the match, Nani said he felt proud to have been part of his country’s progress.

"We worked very hard and I can't explain the emotions that have overcome me," said the 29-year-old who has just completed a move to Spanish side Valencia.

"We are going to live the moment which is historic for the country," he added.

Portugal’s opponents on Sunday will be decided on Thursday night in Marseilles when hosts France take on Germany.

"We have to concentrate only on ourselves and just do our best," said Nani.

In the glow of their own historic run to the semi-final of a major international football tournament, Wales striker Gareth Bale paid tribute to his Real Madrid team mate. "Ronaldo's a natural goal-scorer and he scored yet again," he said. "We're obviously massively disappointed. But we've got to be proud of ourselves first and foremost.

"We gave everything, we have no regrets," he added, predicting Wales would be a force during the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.