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Hot topic: Portugal in Wales's way #PORWAL

Cancelled weddings, enriched laundrettes, yet another Gareth Bale interview: Portugal reporter Joe Walker and Wales man Mark Pitman discuss tonight's semi-final with Paul Saffer.

Cristiano Ronaldo will face club-mate Gareth Bale
Cristiano Ronaldo will face club-mate Gareth Bale ©AFP/Getty Images

Paul Saffer (@UEFAcomPaulS): Thanks for doing this. Starting with a question for both of you: at the beginning of the finals did you really think you'd still be here now?

Mark Pitman, Wales reporter (@UEFAcomMPitman): My heart might have said so but probably not my head. I expected to get through the group, and then anything can happen. I also knew teams would underestimate how good Wales can actually play at their best.

Joseph Walker, Portugal reporter (@UEFAcomJoeW): Before the tournament I had Portugal pencilled in for a semi-final berth, but then after the two disappointing draws in their first couple of games I thought that might be that. They've managed to get here, though, and will have their eyes on the prize now.

Paul: Maybe Spain losing to Croatia didn't do Portugal any harm – guess you could say the same about England drawing with Slovakia for Wales. We've seen Wales play at their full potential at times; have we really seen Portugal at their peak? Might we in Lyon?

Mark: Actually, Gareth Bale seems to think the team can play even better than they did against Belgium, which is exciting!

Paul: Fantastic!

Joe: I don't think so. Cristiano Ronaldo has blown hot and cold, but is creating chances and getting in the right places. Renato Sanches is perhaps the one exception – he's been the driving force behind Portugal's knockout stage wins and will need to be at his best if that's to continue. There's a lot more to come from this set of players, that's for sure.

One thing you have to say is we saw them at their peak in the penalties. What a set of five!

Paul: As an Englishman, it comes as a huge shock to discover Portugal keep their heads in penalty shoot-outs.

You mentioned Ronaldo there; he seems to be enjoying the team spirit of Portugal and for Gareth Bale that goes without saying with Wales. How important has their leadership been to their teams' runs, and not just their attacking abilities?

Mark: Bale is an incredible influence. He puts in the hard work when Wales don't have possession which really motivates the rest of the team. Also, he's a modest and ego-free superstar, which has been crucial when things haven't gone our way.

Paul: Plus he knows that if Wales win, he'll get to sit down with you again the next day.

Bale: It's not me v Ronaldo, it's Wales v Portugal
Bale: It's not me v Ronaldo, it's Wales v Portugal

Mark: We have done five sit-down interviews in the last three weeks. It's a huge factor for him, definitely!

Joe: You can really see Ronaldo's influence on the group. He leads the side out to train, is at the centre of team jokes and has a great rapport with all the lads. You can really see what playing for Portugal means to him.

Paul: Thinking of him coaxing João Moutinho in the shoot-out with Poland ...

Joe: His coaxing, shall we say, of Moutinho to take a penalty was brilliant. Real leadership. It worked, didn't it?

Paul: Obviously for Wales it's not all been Bale. Aaron Ramsey was just as crucial in the Slovakia and Russia games I saw – how much will he be missed against Portugal?

Two minutes with Hal Robson-Kanu
Two minutes with Hal Robson-Kanu

Mark: He will be a big loss, his ability on the ball is obvious, but like Bale it's the defensive work he does that has also been crucial.

Also, Chris Coleman hasn't made any changes to his trusted defence, and Ben Davies will also be a big loss.

Paul: Agreed with that Mark, he's also been massively impressive. But they can join the fans – how many fans had actually planned to still be here? Or the media – the Portuguese press might have expected it, but how many of your Welsh journalists, or maybe even you, have had to rapidly tear up plans in order to stay in France?

Mark: The local laundrette in Dinard has been the real winner. Nobody really believed we could still be here in July, but everyone is incredibly excited that we are. The Welsh media are also fans, it's a close-knit community; there's a lot of positive energy about it all.

Joe: The Portuguese press have certainly been renewing hotel bookings and changing flights. There was a feeling they would make it out of the group but a round of 16 elimination wouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

As I said, before the tournament I thought the semis were on, but then after watching the first two group games – not to mention the roller coaster of emotion that was Hungary 3-3 – I certainly didn't expect to get this far. It's been a great ride.

Paul: No weddings or anything cancelled?

Mark: Joe Ledley has had to postpone his wedding, and Chris Gunter can't be best man at his brother's wedding – his parents are opting for the football over the wedding too!

Paul: On the spot the pair of you: prediction time – will you be staying for an extra few days after Wednesday?

Mark: I've seen enough team spirit, confidence and belief in this Wales team to believe there's more to come from this incredible story. So yes!

Joe: I think all the pressure is on Portugal to get a result here. They're the favourites and all eyes will be on them. That said, they've come this far and are sticking to what they know, and I think they might be too streetwise and experienced for this Wales team.

Paul: I have to admit a slight pull towards Wales, as the only team I saw live in France still standing. Anyway thanks and let's look forward to the game. You can have your say using the hashtag #PORWAL for #EURO2016 on @UEFAEURO.