LYON, France — Cristiano Ronaldo had just propelled Portugal into another European Championship final when he went for Gareth Bale, shared a long conversation with his Real Madrid teammate and gave him a sympathetic hug.

The game between the star forwards turned into a one-man show Wednesday, and as ever it was Ronaldo taking center stage.

By thumping home a header and setting up strike partner Nani for the second goal, Ronaldo delivered two blows in three minutes to lead Portugal to a 2-0 victory against Wales in the Euro 2016 semifinals.

Ronaldo, a serial winner in individual and team prizes in club soccer, will get another chance to win his first trophy on the international stage when Portugal meets France or Germany in the final Sunday at the Stade de France in suburban Paris.

“I’ve always said my dream was to win a trophy with Portugal,” Ronaldo said. “We’re closer to doing it and I believe that we’ll win.”

Portugal last competed in a final at Euro 2004, surprisingly losing on home soil to Greece. A 19-year-old Ronaldo shed tears after that match but has managed to lead a much weaker side to another international showpiece.

“Portugal are not just about Cristiano Ronaldo, we are a team,” Ronaldo said. “But I was able to score today and I’ve helped the team get to the final.”

Ronaldo equaled France great Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in the European Championships when he timed a prodigious leap to perfection and planted home a header in the 50th minute.

Ronaldo, a three-time world player of the year, then sent in a long-range shot that Nani, finding space between defenders, diverted into the net.

Despite Bale’s best efforts – again, he was his team’s top performer – and a solid first-half display, Wales’ unlikely run at only its second-ever major tournament ended in the semifinals. The loss of midfielder Aaron Ramsey through suspension proved costly, and Bale couldn’t do it all on his own.

This could have been the match where Bale, soccer’s most expensive player, emerged from Ronaldo’s shadow. That will have to wait.

“He’s a natural goal-scorer and he scored yet again,” Bale said of Ronaldo. “It’s not about them, it’s about us. We’re disappointed but we’ll pick ourselves up.”

Competing in its first tournament since the 1958 World Cup, Wales, a rugby-mad nation of 3 million people, has been one of the most popular stories of Euro 2016, topping its group and then beating highly fancied Belgium in the quarterfinals.

“I think we were a little tired tonight,” Wales Coach Chris Coleman said. “I can’t say anything against our players. Everything they had in them they left out there. I can’t say I’m disappointed with them. That would be ludicrous.”

Meanwhile, Portugal is a finalist.

”We had difficult moments,” Ronaldo said, “but it’s like I always say, it’s better to start poorly and have a positive ending.

“The dream is still alive.”


GERMANY COACH Joachim Loew said midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will be in his starting lineup for Thursday’s semifinal against France. Schweinsteiger strained a ligament in his right knee during the quarterfinal win over Italy but Loew said he showed he was fully fit in training Wednesday.

LIONEL MESSI and his father were sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud by a Barcelona-based court, with both sentences likely to be suspended. The court found the Barcelona star and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of $4.6 million.

In Spain, sentences of less than two years for first offences are usually suspended, meaning neither man would go to jail. But that rests with the court.