One team bossed the group stage and finished on top. They have scored 10 goals in their 5 games so far, playing with a never-say-never attitude. On the other hand, the other team barely scraped through the group stages (they were helped by the new ‘Best 3rd place finish’ rule). With only 5 goals so far this campaign, they have somehow managed to book a spot in the semis without even winning a single game after 90 minutes. If someone had predicted this scenario a month back, most of us would have said that the first side mentioned was Portugal and the latter being Wales. Forward to the present and here the two teams have switched places.
Chris Coleman has instilled a fearless attitude in his players which saw them come from behind to beat Belgium in the quarter-finals. The PL contingent of Ramsey, Allen, Davies, Williams and Taylor have performed admirably while their talisman, Bale has been one of the best players in this tournament. With Iceland out of the competition, Wales are now the neutral’s favorite to win the cup.
Portugal, despite being in a relatively simple group, have toiled somewhat. They have looked uninspired in attack and lack creativity in midfield. Ronaldo is probably playing his last Euros and perhaps his age has finally begun to catch up with him. In defense however, they have looked strong with Pepe leading the line brilliantly. Renato Sanches has been a beast in midfield and Quaresma has operated as Portugal’s ‘Dark Knight’ so far. They have been highly unspectacular. But they’ve been solid and have managed to keep their nerve when required the most.
Suspensions and Absentees:
Portugal – William Carvalho will miss the semi-final due to suspension and Danilo is likely to replace him.
Wales – Ramsey and Davies both miss out due to suspensions. Ramsey has been one of the best players in this tournament and his loss will be a major blow for the team. Andy King is likely to replace him in the starting line-up.
Key Battles –
Renato Sanches vs Joe Allen –
Allen has played brilliantly in midfield sporting his new ‘Jesus’ look. But he will find it hard to keep control of the robust Sanches who will look to drive forward at every opportunity. With Ramsey missing the match, much of this responsibility will fall on him and this battle will be key in deciding the winner.
Bale vs Portugal full backs –
Bale has played more or less in a central role and is capable of pushing forward down both the flanks (mostly the left hand side). Portugal played Eliseu and Soares as full backs in the game against Poland. While they aren’t bad players, they’ll have to step up their game considerably to stand a chance in controlling Bale. With a dangerous Robson-Kanu waiting in the centre, the job is just that much harder and this battle will be important in deciding the outcome of the match.
Wales will be hoping to continue what Leicester City started. Wales won’t come into this fixture as an underdog but, Portugal have reached the semis for the 3rd time in their last 4 attempts and have players with loads of experience playing at this level. Ronaldo and Bale, both have a chance to tilt the race for the Ballon D’Or in their favor with a win. Wales will miss Ramsey sorely and this is where Portugal gain the advantage. Fernando Santos’ men have been very lucky so far. And I think their luck will hold up one more time against the mighty Welsh.
Portugal 1-1 Wales. Portugal to win at extra time or penalties and progress to the finals.
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