Euro 2016 predictions: And then there were four
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After forty eight matches and a hundred and three goals, twenty of the twenty four teams that began hostilities on the 9th of June have gone home, leaving us with only four teams to battle it out for the right to be called European champion. Two things are already certain beyond the semi finals, the first is that a team that has never won the championship will be in the final on Sunday and the second will be the emergence of a new champion, which was ensured when Italy knocked out defending Champions, Spain, in the second round.
The semi-finalists of EURO2016 can be said to be a mixture of the expected and the unexpected. Majority of football fans and pundits would have put France and Germany on their list as teams that will be here at this stage of the tournament, but the same could not have been said for Portugal and especially Wales. We have witnessed a lot of surprises in this tournament, but Wales getting to the last four has to be the biggest. Albania and Iceland showed us that they can play at this level, but Wales have punched way above their weight to get this far. We will take a look at how these four teams got this far and preview the semi-final matchups with some betting tips for you.
Germany haven’t always looked at their best during the tournament, they kicked it off with a dull 2-0 victory over Ukraine, followed by goalless draw with Poland and a very uninspiring 1-0 win over Northern Ireland to win their group by virtue of goals difference over Poland. In the round of sixteen, the world champions, unarguably, had their best game of the tournament, putting Slovakia to the sword by three goals to nothing. They conceded their only goal of the tournament so far (a penalty) in the quarter finals against Italy, a match they went on to win via a very tense penalty shootout. They are yet to put up the sort of performances they did two years ago in Brazil at the World Cup, but they have been very solid defensively as they are yet to concede a goal from open play so far in the tournament.
France booked their place in the semi finals in style with a 5-2 thrashing of one of the revelations of the tournament, Iceland. Before that comprehensive victory, it had not been all smooth sailing for the host nation as they began the tournament with a nervy 2-1 win over Romania and had to wait for a 90th minute Antoine Griezmann goal before going ahead to beat Albania 2-0 in their second match. In their final group game they failed to break down a disciplined Switzerland side as that match ended goalless. Griezmann came to their rescue again by scoring two goals in the round of sixteen against Ireland; where they had to come from a goal down to earn a 2-1 win. A lot of people believe that this team is yet to perform at its full potential, but with their quarter final performance, Didier Deschamps might just have found the formula to make them tick.
Cristiano Ronaldo and his cronies might count themselves lucky to still be in France as they are the only team remaining in the tournament, yet to win a game in regulation time. Yes! It’s a fact, Portugal have had five consecutive stalemates under ninety minutes and have somehow managed to find themselves in the semi-finals of the competition. They were really aided by the expansion of this tournament from sixteen to twenty four teams, as they would have been eliminated in the first round if it was still played in the old format of sixteen teams. They are also the only team not to have won its group, remaining in the tournament.
A 1-1 draw with Iceland in their opening game was followed by a goalless draw against Austria and a thrilling 3-3 draw with Hungary to leave them finishing in third place with three points. They qualified for the round of sixteen as the third best, third placed team, where they went to face Croatia in one of the most boring matches in the history of football, which was settled by Ricardo Quaresma’s 117th minute strike. In the quarter final against Poland, penalties were needed to separate the sides after both sides scored a goal apiece in 120 minutes of football. Portugal need Ronaldo to perform at the level we know he can (his cameo against Hungary) and this might be his last chance to do so in this tournament.
Whatever happens from here onwards for Wales, they have had an absolutely amazing tournament. They came into the tournaments as rank outsiders, where a quarter final appearance would have been lauded as a great achievement. We are in the semi-final stage and they are still here, which shows how fantastic and resolute they have been at this tournament.
An opening day 2-1 victory over Croatia put them on the right part and gave them some self belief. They conceded a last minute goal against England to lose their second game 2-1, but bounced back from that with a morale-boosting 3-0 hiding of a very lame Russian team to win their group. They faced their second British opponent of the competition, Northern Ireland, in the second round and edged it with a 1-0 victory, but it was in the quarter finals against Belgium that they delivered their most impressive display of the tournament so far, coming from behind to defeat the continent’s top ranked team 3-1. It was a display of character, discipline and ruthlessness by the dragons that stunned the Belgians, who were on a three game winning streak at the tournament. Gareth Bale has been superbly supported by his deputies in France and that would need to continue if they intend to go all the way.
The first semi final will see Portugal take on Wales tonight in Lyon, in what will be Portugal’s fourth semi-final in the last six tournaments. Two players are already grabbing all the headlines for this one, Real Madrid team-mates, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bales. They are the two most expensive players in the history of the sport and form two thirds of a very potent attacking trio with French striker Karim Benzema for the Spanish giants. Bale has had a decent tournament so far, as his three goals have helped Wales to this position, while Ronaldo has struggled to light up France with his only outstanding game being the match against Hungary, where he scored two goals, his only goals at the tournament so far.
However, Ronaldo has been a better team player according to the stats; he has one assist to Bale’s nothing, has created more chances than Bale, 8-4, and has also completed more passes, 86.6% – 69.3%. Away from these two Galacticos, there are other players in both teams that have also been important for their sides in this tournament, Aaron Ramsey, Renato Sanchez, Hal Robson-Kanu, Nani, Ashley Williams, Pepe, Ben Davies and William Carvalho to mention a few. Wales will be missing the services of Ramsey and Davies for this game due to suspension, while William Carvalho will also sit out this one for Portugal because of the same reason and the duo of Andre Gomes and Raphael Guerreiro are still sidelined for Portugal with injuries. The last time these sides met, Portugal ran out 3-0 winners, but that was sixteen years ago and a lot of things have changed since then. My tip for this game is a double chance bet on Portugal, both teams to score and Over2.5 goals.
In tomorrow’s semi final in Marseille, Germany will battle France in what could have easily been the final match of the tournament. The fact that both teams have five European titles and five world titles between them goes to show the sort of pedigree they command in world football. The French are known to make slow starts and grow in stature as tournament progresses, when hosting a major championship and are exactly showing the same. Their defense still remains a major problem and they are yet to face a big-name opponent in the tournament. They must be at their best to stand a chance against the Germans tomorrow night.
Germany, on the other hand, are a side not intimidated by the home crowd and do not give up easily, so expect them to keep the hosts very honest. Joachim Low will be without the suspended Mats Hummels and injured Mario Gomez for the semifinal clash against France; Sami Khedira is a doubt, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng are also struggling with fitness issues. For France, N’Golo Kante and Adil Rami return from their one match ban and are expected to slot back into the starting line-up at the expense of Samuel Umtiti and Moussa Sissoko.
Didier Deschamps has no injury concerns of players suspended and will be able to tinker with the line-up as he sees fit. The last competitive meeting between these two sides was at the quarter finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Germany defeated France 1-0. However, France lead the overall head-to-head with 12 wins out of 27 matches, while Germany have been victorious in 9 and 6 have ended in draws. Their latest meeting was in a November 2015 friendly at Stade de France in Paris, where goals from Blaise Matuidi and Anthony Martial handed Deschamps’ side a 2-0 win. This one will really be hard to call, but my tip will be a double chance bet on France, both teams to score and Over2.5 goals.
This will be the last round of games before the final on Sunday, but you can still make the best of my betting tips and log on to www.bonanzawin.com to place your bets and make some money before the competition is over. In our last series eight out of eleven predictions were correct and there was the upset of Wales beating Belgium.
As I always advise, you can take the tips from this piece as a guide and add your own input, to make it work better for you. Don’t forget to visit www.bonanzawin.com to place your bets as EURO 2016 draws to a close.