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EURO 2016 SEMI-FINAL: WALES - PORTUGAL, BALE VS RONALDO

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All those, who in their Euro-predictions had Wales and Portugal as one of the semi-final pairings at Euro 2016 should quickly go and buy some lottery tickets. These two sides have been some of the biggest surprises of the tournament, especially Wales.

Admittedly, both teams have had a relatively easy run-in to reach the semi-finals, as neither side have faced the absolute creme de la creme of European football. Portugal have defeated both Croatia and Poland in the knockout stages so far, but neither can really be counted as teams of the highest tier - especially after their showings in this tournament. Meanwhile, Wales lost to England in the group stages, but otherwise they've stuck with their successful winning formula. The Belgium team they defeated in the quarter-finals were billed as one of the favourites prior to the tournament, but the Euros showed that they weren't very organized or well managed. Belgium's defence was especially culpable in the quarter-final, and Wales punished them for it.

If you take a look at Potugal's Euro 2016, you can see that they've done the bare minimum to progress this far. Each of their matches at the Euros has finished as a draw at full time, and they've only been in the lead for a total of 22 minutes all tournament! This is an inconceivable stat for a team looking to book their place in a European Championship final. However, that stat also underlines their defensive strength, as they've been solid in all their games bar the 3-3 draw with Hungary.

Now Wales need to find the key to unlock Portugal's stubborn defence, and the task will be much harder than it was against Belgium. Wales struggled in their round of 16 clash with Northern Ireland, as their deep and tight defensive line caused Wales' attacks to fall flat. Naturally, Portugal will have a much even approach compared to the Irish, but there won't be many openings for Wales' attacking players to take advantage of. The Welsh have also suffered a set-back, as one of their key players, midfielder Aaron Ramsey will miss the match as he's compiled too many yellow cards. Joe Allen is a good player, but he isn't good enough to fill Ramsey's boots completely. The suspended dragon has scored once and assisted four times in the Euros, making him one of the most lethal players in the tournament.

A great deal of eyes will be focused on the duel between Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. This is the first time in five years that Real's superstars will be up against each other, and both nations expect their main man to deliver at such a crucial time. Neither one of them has managed to find the back of the net in two matches, but if you look at the whole tournament, Bale has definitely been in better form.

Although Wales were very convincing against Belgium, Portugal can still be counted as slight favourites prior to the match - especially with Ramsey's suspension leaving a gaping hole in the Welsh midfield. Portugal have managed to keep their goal safe from threats in the knockout stages, which points to another low-scoring match. Wales on the other hand will focus on keeping Ronaldo as quiet as possible in the final third. It should also be remembered that Wales have also defended admirably at the Euros.

Portugal at Euro 2016:

30.6. Poland - Portugal 1-2 (penalties)

25.6. Croatia - Portugal 0-1 (after extra-time)

22.6. Hungary - Portugal 3-3

18.6. Portugal - Austria 0-0

14.6. Portugal - Iceland 1-1

Wales at Euro 2016:

1.7. Wales - Belgium 3-1

25.6. Wales - Northern Ireland 1-0

20.6. Russia - Wales 0-3

16.6. England - Wales 2-1

11.6. Wales - Slovakia 2-1

BETTING TIPS: 

The spirit of the knockout stages, Portugal's style of play - huge pressure - everything is pointing towards a low-scoring match. The odds for overs have gone up slightly and unders are a good basis for your betting on this match. Material-wise Portugal are favourites, but as so few goals are expected the likelihood of a draw grows significantly. Out of 1x2 a draw is definitely the best bet.

* 1x2: Draw (X) 41/20 Betsafe

** Under 2,5 goals: 8/15 Unibet

Don't forget to check out the preview and tips for the other semi-final, Germany - France!

 

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