Lee Davy takes a look ahead at the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and picks out the winners of the France v Germany and Wales v Portugal ties, and it ain’t easy.
“You have to watch this.” Said my uncle, Alan.
I was only 7. It was a school night. I followed him into his room. He was watching France v West Germany in the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup. They were about to start extra time.
“Don’t tell your Mum.” Said my uncle. “But, this is something special.”
Michel Platini would later describe the encounter as ‘my most beautiful game.’
“What happened in those two hours encapsulated all the sentiments of life itself.” Said Platini.
It was my first memory of a football match.
The Germans went on to win that game on penalties, and as we now know the only penalty miss for the Germans that night came from Ulrich Stielike – they wouldn’t miss another one until Thomas Muller missed in the shootout against Italy a few short days ago.
France has never beaten the Germans in a major championship. They won’t get a better chance. Joachim Löw’s side have looked imperious throughout this competition, scoring seven goals from all areas of the pitch, and only conceding a solitary penalty at the back. But they go into their semi-final clash with the spine of their side damaged quite severely.
The best defender of Euro 2016, Mats Hummels, is missing through suspension due to the idiotic yellow card rule. A muscle injury means Sami Khedira misses out; Bastian Schweinsteiger is also a doubt through injury, and the rejuvenated Mario Gomez won’t kick another ball in this competition after getting crocked.
France, on the other hand, comes into the game with a healthy squad. The last two times they were the hosts of a major competition they won it (1984 Euros & 1998 World Cup). Nobody has scored more goals.
Germany may be woundped, but we know they are an incredible team. They remind me of a Spartan phalanx. When one man falls someone else plants his feet into the mud and holds it all together.
France still hasn’t played a team capable of causing them harm. They have, in my opinion, one of the dodgiest backlines in the competition. Germany will score. Can the likes of Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet, and Antoine Griezmann make sure they score more?
The bookies can’t separate them at +175 each with +210 the draw. I think it will go all the way to penalties where we will see the French wilt under the pressure.
Wales v Portugal
It’s interesting to see that Bodog has Wales pinned down as the underdog in this one (+115 Portugal; +275 Wales; +210 Draw). It’s Wales. The minnows are competing in their first major finals since 1958. I get that. On the other hand, Portugal is…what’s the word I am looking for…crap!
Portugal is set to compete in their fifth semi-final, and only Germany have appeared in more. They have only managed to escape from this tie once in 2004 where they suffered the ignominy of losing to Greece in the final.
They star in the semis despite not winning a single game in 90-minutes of football. They finished third in the easiest group in the competition. Their star man Cristiano Ronaldo looks like one of those school kids who thinks he is better than everyone else and becomes a goal hanger out of defiance. Even when he bagged a brace against Hungary he was poor.
It’s Gareth Bale v, Cristiano Ronaldo. The pair is club mates at Real Madrid where they have won two Champions League crowns in the past three years. Ronaldo has made Bale a better player. He may regret that by the time this one is all over.
Wales came alive in their 3-0 demolition of Russia. They played against Belgium with huge reserves of desire and belief. And it wasn’t Bale who got them through that game. It was the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Hal Robson-Kanu, and Sam Volkes.
Wales are not a one man team.
Renato Sanches, the world’s most expensive teenager, was the man of the match against Poland. He has to start this game and clear his head of the rumours that he is not 18 but 24 years old.
Where do people get this shit from?
The Dragons are breathing fire.
Portugal doesn’t have any puff.
I see three problems for Wales: nerves and the absence of Ramsey and Ben Davies through suspension. Wales have never been in this position before. Only Bale has big game experience. Portugal, on the other hand, is old hats. And Wales are not a side that can lose two big stars like Ramsey and Davies and not suffer as a consequence.
I have a horrible feeling Portugal will do what they have been doing and bore us all on their way to a close victory by a single goal. However, I hope for the sake of the competition, that Wales give them the good hiding their football has deserved.
Come on Wales!