Portugal v Wales - Expert v Expert Preview


We’ve reached the semi-finals stage, and it is safe to say that no-one would have predicted this one.

Portugal and Wales face off in Lyon, with the Portuguese bidding to make only their second ever major tournament final, and Wales having reached the last four in any competition for the first time ever following a remarkable campaign.

Experts Tom Kundert and Mark Jones give us the lowdown.

 

TEAM NEWS

Tom Kundert on Portugal: Left-back Raphael Guerreiro and midfielder André Gomes are back in full training after missing the Poland match through injury. The defender will replace Eliseu in the starting line-up, while André Gomes may have to be content with a place on the bench.

Centre-back Pepe, who has been outstanding in Portugal’s last two matches, has missed training for two days, but it is reported to be only a precaution and he should be fit for the semi-final.

Wales v Belgium - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016 : News Photo

Mark Jones on Wales: You can’t have failed to notice that Wales are going to be without two of their key players, with Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey both suspended thanks to two bookings. Davies set the tone for the Dragons’ entire tournament with his third minute goalline clearance from Marek Hamsik in the opener against Slovakia, whilst Ramsey has easily been one of the best attacking midfielders in France.

Andy King will come in for Ramsey – adding a bit of that Leicester City ‘anything’s possible’ vibe – whilst it’s a straight choice between Jazz Richards and James Collins to replace Davies, with Richards the probable pick at right wing-back. That would mean Chris Gunter tucking inside and James Chester switching from Ashley Williams’ right-hand man to his left.

 

FORM

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH45-POL-POR : News Photo

Kundert: Portugal have been far from thrilling so far this tournament, especially in the knockout stages, but they have shown impressive resilience in their last two games to battle their way past two tough and in-form opponents.

Coach Fernando Santos has now extended his record to 12 competitive matches unbeaten since becoming manager of the national team in September 2014. With a clean bill of health for the first time since the start of Euro 2016, Portugal know this is a golden opportunity to reach only their second ever final in a major tournament.

Jones: This remarkable Wales team simply keep outdoing themselves, and they’re now in the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time in the country’s history thanks to probably the best Welsh performance of all-time in the quarter-final win over Belgium.

After going a goal down to Marc Wilmots’ prodigiously talented side, the way that Wales responded was incredible, with the quality of the second and third goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes simply taking the breath away.

They believe that they can take on anyone right now, and Portugal are next in the firing line.

 

KEY MAN

Kundert: Nani. Playing as a striker rather than in his usual winger position, Nani has made his critics eat their words with key contributions in practically every match at the tournament so far.

With opposition defenders naturally focusing most of their attention on trying to shackle Cristiano Ronaldo, he has taken advantage of the extra space afforded him to notch two goals and two assists in five matches.

Having surpassed the notable milestone of 100 caps at Euro 2016, Nani’s confidence will be riding high and he could well make the difference again in Lyon, at the same venue where he scored against Hungary.

Wales v Belgium - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016 : News Photo

Jones: I’ve only picked him as the key man in two of the five games so far, but there is simply no ignoring Gareth Bale for this one.

Obviously there’s the Cristiano Ronaldo narrative, but more importantly he’s going to have a much bigger job on his hands without Ramsey by his side, as the Arsenal man is so adept at breaking forward and helping to turn defence into attack.

Wales’s fine performances at this tournament have finally killed off that lazy ‘one man team’ tag, but they’ll need Bale more than ever here.

 

SURE THING

Kundert: Wales are the only team left in the tournament who have scored in every match they have played in France. Portugal are not prolific scorers, but have the firepower to cause danger to any team, not least a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored 50+ goals for an incredible six straight seasons.

Both teams to score at 2.10 is surely a good bet.

Jones: I’ve watched a lot of Portugal at this tournament and they haven’t exactly been pleasurable experiences.

It’s going to be tight and tense, and under 2.5 goals looks a banker at 1.49. Under 1.5 is 2.55.

 

LONG SHOT

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH45-POL-POR : News Photo

Kundert: Portugal have made a habit of coming back in this tournament, four times recovering to draw level after finding themselves a goal down.

If you take a punt at Wales trotting off the pitch happy and leading at half time, but trooping off the losing side at 90 minutes and the bet comes in you will benefit from whopping odds of 26.00.

Jones: It’s frankly ridiculous to actually be typing these words, but when the mind looks for ways in which Wales can actually reach the final of the European Championships (haha!) you keep coming back to the same outcome, namely keeping it tight and then punishing the Portuguese at the other end through Bale.

Wales to win 1-0 with Bale scoring the only goal is 22.00.

 

SCORE PREDICTION

Kundert: Portugal 2-1 Wales at 9.50.

Jones: Portugal 0-1 Wales at 8.50, because why not?