Wales' Hal Robson-Kanu hoping to run Pepe ragged

Wales' Hal Robson-Kanu hoping to run Pepe ragged
Wales' Hal Robson-Kanu.

Wales hero Hal Robson-Kanu has told Portugal defender Pepe to get used to looking at the number nine on the back of his shirt.

Robson-Kanu secured his place in Welsh football folklore with a superb individual goal in the 3-1 quarter-final victory over Belgium.

The striker produced a Cruyff turn which left three Belgium defenders for dead before slotting his left-footed shot past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Now Robson-Kanu has Gareth Bale's Real Madrid team-mate Pepe in his sights, as Wales meet Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday for a place in the final of Euro 2016.

"I don't know how much he will be looking forward to playing against me," said Robson-Kanu with Pepe expected to brush off a thigh injury to play.

"I'm sure it will be a feisty encounter, but my job will be to occupy him and to effect the game in that way.

"He is a world-class player. He knows what he is doing, but it holds no fear and I am relishing the game.

"Portugal hold a bit of a high line and there will probably be a lot more space in behind.

"He will probably be hopefully seeing the back of my number a fair few times chasing after me.

"On the pitch he does what he feels is necessary, but we will be more than comfortable to do what is necessary as well."

Portugal's Pepe.
Portugal's Pepe.

Robson-Kanu's own personal story at Euro 2016 mirrors the remarkable adventure enjoyed by Wales over the past month.

The 27-year-old came into the tournament with injury concerns after damaging his Achilles and without a club after choosing to end his 12-year stay at Reading and become a free agent.

Unlike England striker Jamie Vardy, who signed a new Leicester contract at the Euros after receiving an offer from Arsenal, Robson-Kanu decided to wait until the end of the tournament to sort out his future.

"It is easy to get clouded and lose focus on what is really important," said Robson-Kanu, who also scored the winner in Wales' opening 2-1 victory over Slovakia.

"What really is important here is doing what is required on the pitch, and I think that has shown in my performances throughout the tournament.

"Before the tournament there were offers on the table and I knew where I could potentially be going.

"But I made a decision to wait and I have stuck by that.

"I have haven't hidden my desire to play in the Premier League again, but I am aware there is interest across Europe and globally as well.

"I want to go somewhere which is progressive and has a level of success, somewhere where I can be successful."

Robson-Kanu has become an internet hit since the Belgium game, his goal being replayed countless times on social media.

It was only the fourth time he has scored in 35 Wales appearances, but they have all been vital goals in competitive fixtures.

"The significance of that goal and the manner was obviously special for myself and for the nation," said Robson-Kanu.

"There was a lot going on after the game, so you don't really absorb all of what is happening.

"I was aware there was a bit of a frenzy on social media, but you are playing off instinct a lot of the time when you are on the pitch.

"You don't really get much space against teams like Belgium, but the Cruyff opened up a lot of space for me.

"It was just about staying composed and calm then and putting it in the back of the net, which I did."

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