Semi Final 1
Portugal v Wales
Thursday July 7, 5:00am
Ronaldo v Bale. The two most expensive footballers go head-to-head on Thursday Morning for a spot in the final of Euro 2016. The younger of the Real Madrid pair has had the stronger tournament so far but it’s never wise to count out CR7 in any match.
Portugal have reached the final four despite not winning a game in 90 minutes. They’ve tied all five of their matches (four D/D doubles) and have made it this far by beating Croatia in extra-time in the Last 16 and coming through on penalties against Poland in the quarters.
There’s no precedent of a team succeeding on the international stage without winning in regulation time but PSV won the 1987/88 European Cup despite drawing all four legs of their quarters and semis, before winning the final on pens. It’s currently 25/1 that they win both of their next two games after either extra-time or penalties.
Portugal are no strangers to semi-finals. This is their fifth this century but they’ve lost three of the ties though two went to extra-time. The last time they made it to a Major final was in 2004 when they knocked the Netherlands out at this stage.
Portugal have a very strong W7-D3-L1 record in their last 11 games facing teams ranked 26-50 including the ties against Poland, Hungary and Iceland here. Furthermore, they’ve gone W7-D5-L0 in their last 12 competitive matches against lower ranked teams. Eight of the fixtures have had Under 2.5 and six have had Under 1.5 Goals.
Wales produced one of the all-time great European championship performances to knock out the fancied Belgium in the quarters. Their come from behind victory was all the more stunning because their star man Gareth Bale wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
Instead Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey was the best player on the pitch but he’ll miss this match after picking up a second booking and the midfielder will be sorely missed. Our International rankings span all the way back to the 1970 World Cup and never before have a semi-finalist in either the European Championships of the World Cup been as low-ranked as Wales are here.
While they are surely playing better than their ranking, there is still a disparity between these teams. In all semi-finals since Mexico 70, there have been eight matches where the teams have been separated by at least 10 ranking points and the ‘stronger’ team is undefeated in 90 minutes (W6-D2-L0) though six were level at half-time.
In contrast to their opponents, Wales are yet to draw a game in France as they’ve won four games with four Over 2.5 Goals games. Impressively, Chris Coleman’s side have lost just one of their last 10 matches against higher-ranked opposition as they’ve kept six clean sheets with five HT stalemates. At the time of writing (before the final two quarter-final matches) 17 of the 30 quarters, semis and final matches since Euro 2000 have been level at half-time and that seems the safest play here.
BACK – HT Draw 2.00