Well the Iceland story sure was fun while it lasted, before flaming out in dramatic fashion to a French squad that looks primed to win in front of their home fans. We won big here on Sunday as France eliminated Iceland in a lopsided 5-2 affair. That French attack is starting to round into form, and you have to wonder if that France/Germany match is the true final of this tournament, and not merely just a semi-final.
Onto today’s action though where those semi-finals will commence with two surprising participants. Portugal has somehow advanced to this stage, all without winning a game inside of 90 minutes. They’ve had good fortunes in both injury time and on penalty kicks, and now in playing an inexperienced Wales squad, a real route to the Finals seems to be a possibility. Though they haven’t been playing to their full potential, coach Fernando Santos’ side can turn it on in an instant with the talent they possess. Wales on the other hand have to be thrilled to be here. They’re playing excellent at the moment, led by star player Gareth Bale, and fresh off a 3-1 drubbing of Belgium, have to be riding a wave of momentum. Nobody could have envisioned this as a semi-final match a month ago, but yet here we are as the winner progresses to Sunday’s Finals. Read on below for a detailed game preview and prediction of Wales vs. Portugal.
Wales vs. Portugal Betting Odds:
Over 2 (-110)
Under 2 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Wales vs. Portugal Pick:
As remarkable as this Welsh run has been, you get the sense it could be coming to end in France against the Portuguese. In terms of game-breaking talent, a lot of what Wales can do is limited to just that of Gareth Bale. Especially with the absence of star midfielder Aaron Ramsey due to suspension, Walesè creativity and options moving forward will be limited against Portugal on Wednesday. It’s also worth noting that Wales will also be without Ben Davies on the back-end, another key loss to their starting eleven.
All of this should play into Portugal’s hands. Though it is known that they haven’t exactly dominated through the group stage and into the knockout round – they possess enough talent and ability to turn it on in an instant. With a game of this magnitude at stake, expect Portugal’s best outing. They too will be without William Carvalho, but with the depth in their roster – the drop for them won’t be all that significant.
Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos said in the lead-up to this match “I prefer to play ugly and still be here, rather than play pretty and be at home.” He is exactly right and that’s what his side will continue to do. It worked as he led Greek football for years, and he’s brought that mantra to Portugal – albeit with a lot more skill and flair at his disposal.
With Iceland out, many are clinging to hopes of a Wales final appearance, though that seems unlikely. Both Davies and Ramsey are arguably the top players behind Gareth Bale, and their replacement will be untested and unproven. Portugal has had chances this tournament and they have strung together prolonged periods of great soccer. The 18-year old Renato Sanches is mature beyond his years and has shown some real skill and poise up front. The duo of Nani and Cristano Ronaldo has worked quite well in France and it should be able to take full advantage of a Welsh back-three without Ben Davies.
While I foresee a tight and cagey match at the outset, ultimately the possession dominance and skill of the Portuguese should win out over the depleted Welsh side. Portugal plays solid defense, unlike the Belgians, and for once, I see Portugal advancing to the Finals via a win inside the first 90 minutes. Though I don’t like their chances vs. either France or Germany, Portugal will do enough to take down Wales on Wednesday.
PICK = Portugal (+115)