Who thought that Wales would reach the semi final stages of this competition? No me neither but they proved it was no fluke with their performance against Belgium.
The way this side is well drilled, play as a unit high on team spirit and national pride is something many can learn from and huge plaudits have to go to Chris Coleman. Tonight is their biggest match on the international stage and I’m sure they can put in a big performance.Embed from Getty Images
Portugal have got here without winning in 90 minutes, possibly trying to emulate Paraguay’s 2011 Copa America run when they reached the final by drawing all three group matches then winning both knockout games on penalty shootouts.
Fernando Santos’ side haven’t looked the most polished side but have managed to get results. They are one step away from the final and writing the wrong from their shock defeat in the Euro 2004 final against Greece.
Sunday’s blog provided us with a 7/2 winner courtesy of France winning and both teams scoring. The profit for the blog is now +8.37.
Portugal v Wales
Venue: Stade de Lyon, Lyon
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Jonas Eriksson, (SWE)
As mentioned above Portugal haven’t won a match in regular time but are unbeaten coming into the first semi final in Lyon.
On their way here they have scored five goals in 90 minutes plus their extra time winner against Croatia in the Round of 16. Three of those five goals inside the 90 minutes have been in the first half suggesting the Seleçcão are bright starters.
Santos is without midfielder William Carvalho through suspension but Danilo is likely to replace him in a like-for-like switch. There is also a doubt over the wellbeing of Real Madrid centre back Pepe who picked up a thigh injury in training. It will be touch and go whether he makes it but veteran Ricardo Carvalho is on standby to deputise if he fails to make it.Embed from Getty Images
The Welsh lost against England in the group stages but still managed to finish top, which has helped them to charter safer waters compared to the other half of the draw.
They played with plenty of style and class against Slovakia then Russia before showing they can grind out a result when required when beating Northern Ireland thanks to a Gareth McAuley own goal.
Despite falling behind versus Belgium they showed the resolve of a top side and fought back courtesy of Hal Robson-Kanu’s masterful goal then a pin point header from Sam Vokes after Ashley Williams levelled proceedings in the first half.
The Red Dragons have scored ten goals in their five games and there has been an even split of goals scored in the first half to the second period at 5:5. But this proves they are fluent in front of goal and could capitalise on Portugal’s weakness. In three of their five matches they have netted in both halves and to do that here is 11/2, which is tempting.
Coleman will be forced into changes with both Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies missing out through suspension. They’re likely to be replaced by James Collins and Jonny Williams respectively.
This match has been billed as Gareth Bale versus Cristiano Ronaldo in many quarters but they underplay the so called supporting cast they have been equally influential in their nations reaching this stage.Embed from Getty Images
The Welsh have strong foundations and Coleman’s tactical nous of playing the 5-3-2 with wing backs providing width could be fruitful against a side that employ a diamond in their midfield. If he goes with Robson-Kanu to run the channels or Vokes for crosses into the box then you can expect success against this sort of set up.
Add to that the doubts over Pepe. If he plays, will he be 100%? He could start because of the magnitude of the game, and we’ve seen it before with other players. If he plays then surely it could bare early fruit for the Welsh if they targeted him to test his mobility. If Carvalho comes in then his older legs may get caught out against the pace of Bale and Robson-Kanu.
With the talk all about Ronaldo he only has been to the party once in this tournament and that saved their skin in the 3-3 draw against Hungary otherwise he has been unusually quiet.
For me new Valencia signing Nani has proved his importance to this side whilst we saw an emerging star rise against Poland in 18 year old Renato Sanches. Then off the bench is Ricardo Quaresma, who is a player that probably didn’t achieve what his ability should have, but he can produce that moment of magic to win a game.
The slate has been wiped clean on the yellow card front, so you can only miss the final for being sent off. With Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson in charge that is highly unlikely with him showing his last red card back in November 2015.Embed from Getty Images
His two matches both came in the group stages, so he has a long wait for his third clash. In his games so far he has shown six yellow cards at an average of 3 per game. That would fit well with this match. Portugal average 1 card per game to Wales 1.6 per game, so this isn’t likely to be a cards fest.
The multi millionaire official took charge of Wales’ match against Russia showing two yellow cards – one of them to striker Sam Vokes. It’s worth noting he was in the middle for Portugal’s qualifier away to Albania. A match in which they won late on and Nani received a yellow card.
On the corner front then Santos’ men have taken 39, an average of 7.8, compared to the Welsh who have only had 17, at an average of 3.4 per game. Over 6.5 Portugal corners is 11/10 and that might appeal to some of you.
After the previous round where all teams scored you think that could happen once more. Yet with it being a semi final I’m expecting a game where neither side wants to be too open, so one where the defences are on top.
These are the amount of goal scored in the previous four European Championship semi finals:
- 2012 – three goals scored
- 2008 – eight goals scored
- 2004 – four goals scored
- 2000 – three goals scored
If you factor in Portugal’s poor record at this stage of the competition – in those four tournaments above they’ve lost in two of their three semi finals, both on penalties, whilst winning one of them but losing in the final (2004).
Despite the suspensions to two key players for the Welsh side I still think there is more than enough quality in that side to help them get through to the Euro 2016 final.
We could be forced to endure another long night ahead with Santos’ side not necessarily taking the risks whilst the game is goalless. Add to that the recovery time from their quarter finals, so the legs may become heavy quite quickly with the amount of games played in a short space of time.Embed from Getty Images
Once again this match depends on whether Pepe plays because if he doesn’t I’d be tempted to back Wales to win in normal time, even without one of their better players in the tournament in Ramsey. That said with Portugal’s record at this stage of a tournament then looking at the specials market we could go all the way.
HT/FT Result: Draw/Wales – 15/2 (0.5pt)
Coral Enhancement: Match to go to penalties – 9/2 (0.5pt)