THURSDAY MORNING’S BIG STORIES
1- Bale focuses on 'bigger picture' after semi-final heartbreak
Wales were knocked out of the European Championship by Portugal but Gareth Bale refused to be downbeat.
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It has been Chris Coleman's mantra that this is just the start of something for Wales, not the end, and Bale was already looking to the future as he surveyed the 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's very disappointing to be so close to the final but we have to be proud," Bale told the BBC. "This is a proud moment for us, we have achieved a lot. We had pride and passion.
"The fans are the best in the world, by far. We wish we could have done it for them. We'd like to thank all the fans at home and all the fans who travelled out and behaved themselves.
"We've had a taste of it now and we look forward to the future. We have confidence. We don't want to turn up to one tournament, it's about the bigger picture."
2- Deschamps: France can make history
Visuel Une Deschamps Löw
Image credit: Eurosport
Any France fans looking for recent omens ahead of their huge semi-final against Germany on Thursday are set to be disappointed: Germany have won their past three meetings in major tournaments, including a 1-0 win in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup.
However, in a stirring address, manager Didier Deschamps has told his players they can write their own history when they do battle in Marseille.
"We have a new page to write, and the players can do it," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"It's blank today - they can write it tomorrow. What matters is that the players believe in themselves. I'm convinced that's the case."
3- Draxler: Absences won't matter to Germany
Durchstarter Draxler: Das Versprechen für die Zukunft
Image credit: AFP
Germany could be without as many as four key players in Marseille. Mario Gomez is missing the rest of the Euros due to injury, Mats Hummels is suspended and both Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger are big doubts.
No bother, says forward Julian Draxler, who will come back into the team after being dropped for the quarter-final win over Italy.
"Our playing idea will remain the same therefore, the fact that players are missing isn’t relevant. But when we’re talking about these four players, we’re talking about world class individuals. Also very experienced players, who are used to being in such pressured situations.
"But our squad is full of quality players. Regardless of who players, everyone is ready. I’m certain that as a team we’ll manage without the missing players."
A goal each from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani was enough to see Portugal beat Wales 2-0 and ease into the final of Euro 2016. It was a brave campaign from Wales but ultimately they just came up short.
It's the second of the semi-finals and just possibly the most anticipated match at these finals: the world champions against the hosts. Germany can be assured of a fiery reception at the highly partisan Stade Velodrome but come into this as favourites. They needed penaltes to get past a very well organised Italy but otherwise haven't come into too much bother. Mario Gomez is out, leaving them short a centre-forward, while both Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger could miss out - so Jogi Low has some thinking to do. Adil Rami and N'Golo Kante return form suspension for France , but will they get back into a team which beat Iceland 5-2?
On the ground
Tom Adams - Lyon
Wales fans have brought real colour to this tournament and their red shirts have been splashed all over Lyon. Their chants were even adopted by locals as everyone joined in the party, a real coming together of disparate groups of supporters. Euro 2016 started with some awful scenes but it is finishing with some heartening ones.
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SHARING IS CARING – TODAY’S VIRAL GEMS
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new hero of Euro 2016.
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