After almost a month of top class action we’re down to the final four at Euro 2016, and what a pair of matches we have in store. Not many would have predicted that Wales would be one of the semi finalists in France, but the Gareth Bale-inspired side have created history to line up a last four clash against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid teammates will both insist that the match is about two teams not just two players, but the world will be watching to see which of the superstars comes out on top and leads his nation to the final.
Meanwhile the other semi final is a match-up steeped in history as hosts France take on the might of Germany. The way the French took apart Iceland to cruise to a 5-2 victory in the quarter finals showed their determination to lift the European title on home soil, and they may well believe this is a tougher match than they will face against either of the other semi finalists if they progress to the final. Germany on the other hand were uncharacteristically wasteful from the penalty spot in a remarkable shootout against the Italians, but once again they emerged from a tournament knock out game after spot kicks.
Both games are very evenly poised, and after a tournament which has thrown up a succession of one-sided games, both are eagerly anticipated. We’ve given detailed match analysis and match bets in other columns, and here we’ll concentrate on the goalscorer markets.
France v Germany
The Golden Boot is a coveted individual award at any major international competition, and while it can never compare to winning the tournament itself, there are a handful of French players who will have their eye on dual honours. Antoine Griezmann leads the scoring charts so far with four goals to his name, but Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet are both hot on his heels with three apiece.
Germany’s leading marksman at the tournament so far has been Mario Gomez with two strikes to his name, but having been ruled out of the rest of the Euros with injury, the goal-scoring responsibilities for the German side will fall to the misfiring Thomas Muller.
The match is likely to be a very tight affair and certainly nowhere near as open as the France v Iceland quarter final. The French opened up the Icelandic defence at will and could have easily doubled their tally of five goals. Manager Didier Deschamps might be more concerned about the other end of the pitch though, as he watched his side concede two goals despite being 4-0 up at half-time and out of sight. Leicester’s Kante could well come back in to shore up the defensive midfield area, and France will have to work very hard to create chances against this German team.
That’s why Paul Pogba makes plenty of appeal in the first goalscorer market at a generous +1200 with Bet365.
The Juventus midfielder was widely tipped to be the star of this tournament, but things have not panned out quite as expected. After being substituted in the opening game against Romania, he was left out of the starting line up altogether versus Albania. Since being restored to the first 11 he has continued to show flashes of brilliance, and finally notched his first goal of Euro 2016 against Iceland. With chances likely to be few and far between against Germany it might take a bit of magic to find the net on Thursday, and Pogba is one of the best when it comes to shooting from range.
Considering that Muller – who is yet to perform at the Euros – is a best price of +600 and the likes of Gignac, Sane, Gotze and Schurrle are all ahead of Pogba in the betting markets, the Real Madrid target makes obvious appeal on value grounds.
Portugal v Wales
One could look at this game and suggest split stakes on Bale and Ronaldo to open the scoring such is their importance to their teams, but it’s the former who represents the best value at the odds.
Ronaldo has two goals to his name so far at Euro 2016, both coming in the 3-3 draw with Hungary. It hasn’t been a sterling competition for the Portuguese talisman – the missed penalty against Austria summing up his performances this summer. Even so he is rated as the +333 favourite to be first on the scoresheet on Wednesday night.
Gareth Bale has three goals in the tournament so far, having opened the scoring against Slovakia and England and notching the third in the 3-0 win over Russia. He has also performed with far more credit than Ronaldo in France, inspiring his teammates to a historic semi final. Bale is +550 with BetVictor, BoyleSports and Paddy Power which is an appealing bet.
Wales are 2nd top scorers at the competition behind France, and will fancy their chances against an ageing Portugal defence which has conceded goals to Iceland, Hungary and Poland en route to the last four. Bale is by far the most likely scorer within the Welsh ranks and in a game of this magnitude it often takes that little bit of extra quality or magic to break the deadlock.
France v Germany – Paul Pogba to Score First
Thursday 7th July, 20:00 GMT
Portugal v Wales – Gareth Bale to Score First
Wednesday 6th July, 20:00 GMT
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