Round of 16
Wales v Northern Ireland
Sunday June 26, 2:00am
There was really only ever going to be one Welsh player to watch in this tournament and after Gareth Bale scored seven of their 11 goals in qualifying he’s netted in all three of their matches at these Finals. They were outplayed in the game against England, when they conceded 70% of the possession, but have proven tough to break down so far and will expect to be the team who are controlling things here.
These teams met as recently as March in a Cardiff friendly that finished 1-1 but was missing the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey and with that pair involved Wales will start as strong favourites. Since the start of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup they’ve won eight of 11 competitive matches against lower ranked sides while keeping seven clean sheets and with six wins to nil. Eight of those matches had fewer than three goals as have nine of their last 15 competitive games against all teams.
We certainly shouldn’t expect a high-scoring game then and in the context of this tournament that would seem even less likely. Moreover, since 2002 there have been 81 knockout matches at World Cups and European Championships and they’ve averaged just 1.84 goals per game and 47% having fewer than two strikes. Furthermore, 59% have been level at half-time and in the 44 opening knockout games within that 32 (73%) have had fewer than three goals.
The goals stats for Northern Ireland lean even more towards a tight game and 21 of their last 26 games have had fewer than three goals as they’ve conceded just 20 times. At times it looked like Germany were going to ruin that defensive record but they hung on for a 1-0 loss that was as good as a win.
They’ll hope to have more of a footing in this match though and since 2013 they’ve got an impressive record as moderate underdogs, going W6-D6-L5 against teams we had ranked 21st-80th, with all those teams being ranked above them at the time. 14 of those 17 had fewer than three goals while 10 were goalless at half-time, including their opening two games at these Finals against Poland and Ukraine.
If Northern Ireland can stop Gareth Bale they’ll feel they can cause an upset here and Wales look too short to win in 90 minutes. As such we prefer the draw price and Under 1.5 Goals in a game that is likely to be decided by just one or two key moments and could easily finish 0-0.
BACK – Under 1.5 Goals at 2.38