Euro 2016 semifinal predictions: Who will advance to final?

Four teams remain in the Euro 2016 tournament now that the quarterfinal round has ended. With the games scheduled for two consecutive days, beginning on July 6, which teams will be advancing to the championship game on July 10? Read on to find out.

Portugal vs Wales

After an early Lewandowski goal in the 2nd minute, Poland went the next 118 minutes without scoring at all. Portugal found the equalizer on a nice strike by Renato Sanches, the man of the match against Poland. At just 18 years of age, he became the third youngest player in the history of the Euros to score a goal. While Portugal’s front-line offense has been disappointing, they have gotten support from their substitutes, who have a Euro record 13 goals scored thus far.

In the meantime, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score against Poland and still needs one more goal to tie Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in Euro play. Portugal advanced to the semifinal match by defeating Poland in penalty kicks 5-3, and worth noting is that Portugal has yet to win a match in the Euros in 90 minutes, either tying or winning their games in extra time.

Ronaldo and company will be facing Wales, who pulled a major upset and upended Belgium, who is ranked second in the world, 3-1. The Welshmen confounded everyone from the pundits to the oddsmakers. After not advancing beyond the group stage in any tournament since 1958, Wales, like Iceland, has proven that football is truly a team sport with 11 players on the pitch.  While the Belgium players have a Euro-high payroll of $435 million, Wales’ three goal-scorers against Belgium have names that are virtually unrecognizable outside of their country’s borders. However, Wales will have two key players sitting out the next match due to yellow card accumulations, playmaker Aaron Ramsey and defender Ben Davies.

Prediction– While this match will be billed as the battle of Real Madrid strikers Ronaldo vs. Bale, it is far more than that. Not to take anything away from either star, but this game will be determined by other factors. For Portugal, Sanches is the player who could prove to be a game-changer, supported by a strong defense. Wales will continue to rely on a strong counter-attack, while challenging for every loose ball on the pitch. While it won’t be easy, Wales will continue their run to the championship game of the Euros and beat Portugal 2-1.

Germany vs France

The German squad suffered an early injury against Italy in the 15th minute, having to replace midfielder Sami Khedira with team captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. After a scoreless first half, Mesut Ozil opened the scoring for Die Mannschaft in the 65th minute to give Germany a 1-0 lead.  Italy was able to tie the match in the 78th minute on a penalty kick by Leonardo Bonucci as a result of a hand ball in the penalty area, sending the match beyond regulation play and through to penalty kicks. Germany prevailed in the shootout phase, but the 18 penalties taken tied the record from 1980 for the most in a Euro shootout.

Germany has now won six consecutive major tournament shootouts, although they missed three attempts from the spot in this match. While having a deep bench, a hamstring injury to Mario Gomez has the striker ruled out of the Euros altogether, while defender Mats Hummels will be serving a one-game suspension for a yellow card accumulation.

With both Schweinsteiger and Khedira doubtful for this match, expect manager Joachim Low to make changes to his starting eleven. Germany’s opponent will be France, who defeated Iceland, 5-2. From the onset of the match, it was clear that Iceland’s Cinderella run was coming to an end.  Outclassed and outmatched, Les Bleus were able to control the tempo of the game, with Olivier Giroud opening up France’s account in the 12th minute, followed by a header goal from Paul Pogba eight minutes later. While Iceland never lessened their resolve throughout the game, France were clearly the better team as the rout was on against a tired Iceland team with limited resources.

Prediction– This match pits the two best teams in the Euros against each other, and it has all the makings of a championship game.  World Cup winner Germany has ceded one goal in its five Euro matches, and that was a penalty kick against Italy. For host country France, they had only given up two goals entering the Iceland match, but more importantly, should have their full squad available for the game.

France’s play in these Euros have shown an upswing in their quality of play, while Germany struggled in their last match against Italy. The difference will be the quality of opponents faced, as the Germans have cut their teeth against much tougher teams. While the game will be highly competitive, look for Germany to knock out the hosts, 2-1.