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Portugal vs Wales - Portugal keep Pepe's fitness under wraps

Wednesday, July 06, 2016 Source: PA

Pepe remains a doubt for Portugal's Euro 2016 semi-final against Wales after head coach Fernando Santos kept his counsel.

Questions over the 33-year-old's fitness were raised after missing Sunday's training session with a thigh complaint.

A precautionary measure it may have been but Pepe did not take a full part in training on the eve of the match, instead doing separate work at their Marcoussis base before travelling to Lyon.

Being without the Real Madrid centre-back against Wales would be a huge blow for Portugal and coach Santos was coy when asked about his fitness.

"As for Pepe, you'll probably be tossing and turning in your beds tonight because I'm not going to answer," he said with a smile at the pre-match press conference in Lyon.

"I'll be sleeping quietly because I have other players who can play. This situation is not new for us, it happened in our first match with (Ricardo) Quaresma.

"Sometimes players recover and are fully fit to play and other times they're not and others are called up.

"If Pepe is 100 per cent, I will think about it and he can start the game. If not, no problem. All the players must be 100 per cent fit for such an important game."

Should Pepe fail to recover, 38-year-old former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho looks set to line-up in central defence alongside Southampton captain Jose Fonte.

William Carvalho will miss Wednesday's match through suspension, but fellow midfielder Andre Gomes and left-back Raphael Guerreiro are back in contention after missing the quarter-final against Poland with knocks.

Chris Coleman has told Portugal to expect a "streetwise" Wales in the semi-final.

Portugal have been accused of gamesmanship in the past, with Iceland boss Lars Lagerback pointing the finger at the Real Madrid pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe earlier in the tournament.

Lagerback said at a press conference before his side's group game against the nation: "Portugal has one of the best players in the world in Cristiano, but he is also an excellent actor. In the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid we also saw the actions of someone who could be in Hollywood. I mean Pepe."

But Wales boss Coleman feels his players have grown up on the international stage and will not be distracted on Wednesday.

"At this level games are decided in a second, a turnover, the ball changes hands, somebody makes the wrong decision," Coleman said ahead of the Lyon showdown.

"You can call it gamesmanship, but sometimes it's being streetwise at this level.

"We used to be far too honest. I'd look at what players used to do to us in the same situations, and we'd be miles behind.

"Sometimes it's not pretty, or even ugly, and you can see it as negative.

"But anything you need to do to stay in the game, do it. It's streetwise, football smart. We've got a lot better at that in the last few years."

Wales' path to a major semi-final has been remarkable considering they were ranked 117th in the world less than five years ago, when the late Gary Speed started the journey.

"He could be sitting here where I am, enjoying what we're enjoying," Coleman said.

"Unfortunately that was taken away. We always remember Speeds. I don't need football to do that.

"People think the end of this tournament is the end of this journey, but it's not.

"They'll be here long after I am. This success is part of the learning process."

Coleman has to fill the gap caused by the absence of suspended pair Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies.

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