Renato Sanches leads an exciting new generation even if Portugal lose to Wales

There is much excitement about the post-Ronaldo generation

Renato Sanches, Portugal

Portugal's Renato Sanches, left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the Euro 2016 quarterfinal soccer match between Poland and Portugal, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Thursday, June 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Portugal once had a golden generation, then they had a silver generation and they're hoping that the next class of players isn't bronze.

The golden generation of course refers to the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa who won world titles at youth level at the dawn of the '90s.

By the time, they lost the Euro 2004 final on home soil to Greece, a silver generation led by Cristiano Ronaldo had just started to emerge.

Neither groupings of players have won anything, although they are now two wins from becoming European champions, starting with a clash against Wales tonight.

Ronaldo's silver generation are already hitting 30 and beyond. But Euro 2016 has already shown a vision of the future for them even if Portugal fall short.

A few months before the Euros on Team 33, Lisbon-based football writer Tom Kundert highlighted a number of young players that are exciting people in Portugal.

Many of those players were penalty kicks away from winning the 2015 under-21 European championships and some are already part of the current senior team at Euro 2016.

William Carvalho (24) for one, had already caught our eye at the last World Cup as a young player to watch and the Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder has started every game but their opening night draw against Iceland.

Also playing regularly at Euro 2016 from that under-21 crop is winger Joao Mario and Arsenal-linked left-back Raphael Guerreiro. Indeed Guerreiro and Carvalho were part of the UEFA Team of the Tournament in 2015 - indeed Carvalho was Player of the Tournament.

But the player everyone is excited about is Renato Sanches, who started the tournament as an impact sub but has become a starter in a summer when he is already making a mega-money move from Benfica to Bayern Munich.

Croatia's Ivan Rakitic, left, is challenged by Portugal's William Carvalho during the Euro 2016 round of 16 soccer match between Croatia and Portugal at the Bollaert stadium in Lens, France, Saturday, June 25, 2016. (AP Photo/ Michel Spingler)

Unfortunately, the dread-locked midfielder has been dogged by discussions surrounding whether he is in fact 18.

But regardless of that, he has a long future in the game and has already shown Euro 2016 observers his talents, with an excellent performance in the quarter-final against Poland.

In that game, he scored a deflected equaliser but also showed composure with his kick in the shootout and what is often encouraging with young players is if you see older pros not showing any hesitation in giving youngsters the ball.

But Portugal have even left out exciting talents that will have an impact beyond Euro 2016.

Kundert had highlighted Porto's defensive midfielder Ruben Neves, who has already captained the club by the age of 19, and Monaco's Bernardo Silva who is regarded as one of the most promising attacking midfielders in the squad.

Whenever Ronaldo's powers truly fade and he decides to retire from international duty, it will be a blow for Portugal.

But it need not be a disaster. The way they play, it almost feels like an obligation to pass to Ronaldo regardless of where he is on the pitch.

To use an Arsenal example, Cesc Fabregas and the post-Invincibles his band of young Gunners blossomed more without Thierry Henry than with him as they did not feel compelled to give him the ball regardless of where he was stationed.

Ronaldo's international career may have one more major tournament campaign to run, but there seems to be some life after him based on Euro 2016.