Wales Has High Hopes vs. Portugal

By Charles Jay

Euro 2016 has not come without some surprises. One of them was the elimination of England, which was packed with young talent, and which led to the quick resignation of its coach. But keeping up appearances for the United Kingdom is Wales, which hopes not to complete the “Brexit” from this international tournament as it takes on Portugal in the semi-finals, taking place at the Stade des Lumieres in Lyon, with kickoff scheduled for 3 PM ET.

Wales has an opportunity to make it through to its first championship game ever in a major tournament, while Portugal is an old hand at this, making it, for example, to the finals of this particular event in 2004 (losing to Greece). And it is not by accident that the Dragons are here. They arrived in the “final four” by defeating the #2 side in the world, from Belgium, by a 3-1 margin, even after conceding the first goal of the game. They have scored 10 goals and allowed just four thus far.

Portugal advanced to the semi-finals by virtue of a victory over defensive-minded Poland that came on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie through regulation and extra time. They have scored just six regulation goals over these last five games.

This game, of course, matches two superstars who play their club football for Real Madrid, as Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal lines up against Gareth Bale of Wales. These players are also billed as the two most expensive in the world.

In the Euro 2016 soccer odds posted on this game by the folks at America’s Bookie, the Portugal side is favored, with a reminder that these numbers only apply to that which takes place in regulation time:

(Regulation Time Only)

Wales +330
Portugal +110
Draw +205

Over 2 Goals -120
Under 2 Goals +100

Wales +1/2 Goal -130
Portugal -1/2 Goal +110

We keep an eye on the key absences for these two squads, and they could be very significant. William Carvahlo, the Portugal midfielder, has to sit out with a suspension, but Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Gomes are supposed to be available after missing the game with Poland. Wales will be missing defender Ben Davies and also its former captain (before that distinction was given to Bale) Aaron Ramsey, who got a second yellow card against Belgium. We’ll see what the “Ramsey Effect” will be when he’s not in there. Of course, the team was considered to be fortunate to have him available in the first place because he was coming off a thigh injury leading up to the Euro. Andy King of Leicester City will take his place, and there may not necessarily be much of a drop-off.

In terms of the future of its program, this event has been significant for Portugal because of the emergence of Renato Sanches, who is demonstrating why Bayern Munich paid the fourth-highest fee in the history of its club (and the highest ever paid for a player from a Portuguese domestic league) for him. Sanches, who is all of 18 years old, is also the country’s youngest-ever international tournament player, and perhaps his highlight was the goal that knotted things up against Poland and eventually led to the penalty kick shootout.

Chris Coleman, the coach for Wales, has expressed no real anxiety over being the underdog here, and why should he? When you have taken down as highly-rated a team as Belgium, what is there to fear? Portugal had seven consecutive wins in qualifying, all of which came by one goal. And the one victory they have taken here (in regulation) has been by a single goal as well. Wales has the ability to stay within range, so we will take the half-goal (in regulation) and lay the -130 price as the Charles Jay / America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Wednesday.

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