Portugal regularly feature at the business end of international tournaments but rarely look good along the way and so it has proven at Euro 2016. Drawn matches with Iceland, Austria and Hungary enabled them to sneak into the knock-out stages, where they out-bored Croatia in extra-time in the Round of Sixteen and stumbled past a timid Polish side on penalties to reach the semi-finals.
They were written off as a one-man team in some sections of the press, but Wales have shown themselves to be much more than that. In the nation’s first major international tournament since 1958, Chris Coleman’s side disposed of Slovakia and Russia at the Group stage, worked hard to get past Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 and then impressed the football world with a thoroughly deserved victory over tournament second-favourites Belgium in the Quarter-Finals.
Portugal v Wales – H2H Stats
If you’re looking at the head to head record for clues, there’s very little historical evidence to draw upon in this fixture.
Portugal and Wales have only met three times, and two of those games came in 1949 and 1951. Portugal won the first 3-2, in May 1949, thanks to goals from Patalino, Manuel Vasques and Jose Mota, but two years later, Wales beat Portugal 2-1 in Cardiff, with Trevor Ford and Mal Griffiths getting the goals.
Their last match came in a warm-up match for Euro 2000. Luis Figo, Ricardo sa Pinto and Capucho scored for Portugal in a convincing 3-0 victory in Chaves.
Portugal’s tactics at Euro 2016 have been peculiar, but are unlikely to change for this game. Cristiano Ronaldo will be employed up front alongside Nani, with a narrow midfield, spearheaded by the exciting teenager Renato Sanches. Defensive midfielder William Carvalho has been Portugal’s best player in the tournament so far but will miss the game and is likely to be replaced by Joao Moutinho. Expect Portugal to sit deep and hope that Ronaldo or Sanches can produce something at the other end.
Wales are missing two key players. Centre half James Collins is the most likely replacement for Ben Davies, but he will make the defence less mobile, while Dave Edwards, Andy King and Jonathan Williams are all options to replace Aaron Ramsey. Wales are likely to try to repeat their tactics against Belgium, with both wing backs pushing on where they can, Gareth Bale trying to cause havoc in his free role, and Hal Robson-Kanu working hard to try to stretch the Portugese defence.
Portugal v Wales Odds & Betting Markets
The best matches at major tournaments tend to fall into one of two categories: end to end feasts of attacking football or chess games, and this semi-final is likely to be one of the latter. Expect commentators to describe it as ‘one for the purists’ at half-time.
With a reshuffled and noticeably slower central defence, Coleman will be concerned about his wing backs pushing leaving space for Ronaldo and Nani to exploit, so Wales will offer less going forward than they did against Belgium, a problem exacerbated by the absence of Aaron Ramsey. Portugal will also be able to match Welsh numbers in the centre of the pitch, resulting in a congested midfield which won’t allow either side to develop any fluency.
Portugal’s approach in major tournaments always seems to tend toward the cautious and with their main scoring option, Ronaldo forced into a role that seems almost designed to minimise his threat, it is hard to see them breaking free of their inhibitions. This semi-final is likely to be cagey, cautious, scrappy and low on chances, and backing the normal time draw at 21/10 at PaddyPower is an easy choice.
Odds for First Goalscorer
It is tempting to consider backing ‘No Goalscorer’ in this game, but that option appears to be well covered in the market and odds of 5/1 are not particularly tempting. Instead, it could pay to look beyond the obvious names of Ronaldo, Bale and Nani in the First Goalscorer market. Wales’s lone striker Robson-Kanu is of some interest, but he is likely to be well shackled by the Portuguese defence, so a better bet is young Portuguese midfielder, Renato Sanches, who will be given licence to get forward and has an eye for goal. Back him to score first at 14/1 with BetFred.
Odds for Total Goals
Wales kept seven clean sheets during their qualifying games and if you ignore their crazy 3-3 draw with Iceland, Portugal’s four other games in this tournament have produced just four goals in normal time. It would be no surprise if this semi-final is low on goal-mouth action and it makes sense to back Under 2.5 goals at 4/9 with Sportingbet.