PORTUGAL vs WALES
It has been a bizarre tournament for Portugal. They haven’t managed to win a game inside 90 minutes yet but have somehow managed to reach the semi-finals of the competition. On paper, Portugal have plenty of talent and Wales will be wary of their threat; especially in attacking areas. Cristiano Ronaldo (11/9 to score anytime) struggled in the group stages but showed plenty of leadership in their knockout fixtures with Croatia and Portugal – and the Real Madrid man will be central to their chances of victory on Wednesday night.
But Portugal are about much more than just Ronaldo. The likes of Nani, Renato Sanches and Joao Moutinho must step up to the plate if Portugal are to emulate their European Championship side of 2004. And new Bayern Munich signing Sanches could be the difference maker. At just 18 years old, he is incredibly raw but the former Benfica man already looks settled at the heart of Portugal’s midfield and Fernando Santos will be relying on him to perform well, especially as William Carvalho is ruled out through suspension.
Meanwhile, Wales will be without two key members of their squad. Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Tottenham Hotspur’s Ben Davies are both suspended and Chris Coleman will have to completely rejig Wales’ starting line-up to accommodate for these losses. While their attacking stars have received plenty of media attention, central defender James Chester has perhaps been the standout player at the back for Wales and he will need to be at his very best to keep Ronaldo and co quiet.
Gareth Bale (47/20 to net anytime in 90 minutes) has been simply sublime so far this summer and the Welshman will still have one eye on the Golden Boot award. He has scored three goals and currently sits just one behind France forward Antoine Griezmann. Ultimately, Wales’ chances hinge on his form and he might struggle for service without the suspended Ramsey. He has already recorded four assists and Chris Coleman’s men may lack creativity in the final third without the Arsenal man.
TOP TIP: Wales to qualify @ 17/10
LONGSHOT: Gareth Bale to score first and Wales to win in 90 minutes @ 19/2
GERMANY vs FRANCE
On Thursday, Joachim Loew’s injury-struck Germany will face host nation France in Marseille. The Germans hadn’t conceded a goal before conceding a penalty against Italy and Manuel Neuer and co will fancy their chances if Loew’s defence can stay firm. It will be incredibly tough though; defensive stalwart Mats Hummels will miss out after picking up two yellow cards and he will be sorely missed at the heart of Germany’s back four. However, they have plenty of talent in their ranks and Loew’s men will still be quietly confident.
But it won’t be easy. Germany will have to cope without leading striker Mario Gomez, the experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger and midfield maestro Sami Khedira. In fact, Germany’s main goal threat may come from Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal star scored their only goal against Italy but did miss a penalty in the shootout. At 24/5 to score during 90 minutes, plenty of Germany supporters will be backing their creative genius to shine and inspire his nation to victory on Thursday night - despite their poor recent record against Les Bleus.
France hit top form on Sunday against Iceland as Didier Deschamps’ men produced a five-star performance to book their place in the final four. N’Golo Kante’s return to the side should allow Paul Pogba to venture further forward and Germany’s makeshift midfield may struggle to cope with France’s potent unit. And Dimitri Payet may be the main beneficiary, especially if Deschamps continues to deploy him in the ‘number 10’ role. The West Ham man could be named Player of the Tournament and he will be eager to impress yet again.
As previously mentioned, Griezmann is currently leading the way in the race for the Golden Boot award. The Atletico Madrid man has netted four times so far this summer and it would take a brave man to back against him in this clash. At the time of writing, Griezmann is priced at 5/2 to score in regulation time – decent odds considering his attacking prowess and France’s creative nous. If nothing else, Griezmann will get chances, especially if the hosts take an early lead as Germany will have to push for an equaliser. France simply have too much firepower; as confirmed by the attacking statistics below.
TOP TIP: France to win in 90 minutes @ 7/4
LONGSHOT: Dimitri Payet to score AND give an assist @ 16/1