Portugal v Wales, Weds 6th July
Stade de Lyon in Lyon - 8pm
On Wednesday night in Lyon, Portugal take on Wales in the first of the Euro 2016 semi finals for a chance to meet either Germany or the hosts France in the final of the European Championships.
Even the most myopic of Portugal fans would have to admit that their team is somewhat fortunate to find themselves in the final four of the European Championships, especially given that they’re yet to win a match in normal time. Any Portuguese fan who has sat through their 5 games to date has watched roughly 537 minutes of football and has only seen their team in the lead for 26 minutes – 4.8% of the time!
Tight matches are nothing new though. In the last two years of competitive football matches, none of Portugal’s matches have been settled by more than one goal. In that period, which covers the bulk of World Cup 2014, all their Euro 2016 qualifying matches and all their matches at the tournament so far, they’ve won some, drawn some and lost some, but no game has had more than a single goal separating the two sides. If you’re backing a one-sided scoreline the stats say that you are wasting your time. Portugal don’t win big and they don’t lose big – all their games are tight affairs.
Despite giving away more fouls (66) than any other team left at Euro 2016, Portugal have only picked up 5 yellow cards. Ahead of this game, unlike Wales, they don’t have any suspension worries, and the only slight concern comes in the form of Madrid bastard Pepe who missed training with a hamstring problem.
Whilst Gareth Bale has made all the headlines for Wales with his goals in the group stages, Aaron Ramsey has arguably been even more influential for Chris Coleman’s men to date. Unfortunately for the Welsh, a second yellow card picked up late on in the win against Belgium rules him out of this one, and it remains to be seen whether Wales will be the same without him.
Wales’ performances to date have been slightly underwhelming against the more familiar sides from the home nations, England and Northern Ireland, but excellent against the teams from further afield. Two eye-catching wins in the group stages against Slovakia and Russia were followed up by a sensational victory against Belgium (ranked second in the world) in the round of 16. Chris Coleman will feel that his players are underdogs for this match once again, but he’ll be hoping that history repeats itself in Lyon on Wednesday night.
In addition to the absent Aaron Ramsey, the Spurs left-back Ben Davies also picked up a second yellow card of the tournament against Belgium. In midfield, Leicester man Andy King is expected to get the nod, whilst at the back James Collins is likely to come in to replace Davies.
Another tense battle awaits viewers of this one. The worry for Wales is that Cristiano Ronaldo and the sensational Renato Sanchez will combine to overrun a Welsh midfield bereft of Aaron Ramsey. In addition, without Ramsey’s creativity Portugal may be able to cut-off supply to Gareth Bale and without those two players Wales simply don’t have a side capable of winning this one.
This time around, I fancy Portugal to get the early goal and to finally give us a game worth watching. It’s time for Cristiano Ronaldo to finally hit centre-stage and with supply to Gareth Bale cut off, I think that Portugal will slowly strangle Wales and reach Sunday’s final.
- Portugal/Portugal Half time/Full time @
- Ronaldo to score 1st & Portugal to win @
- James Collins – first player to be shown a card @
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