Portugal’s improbable path to semis smacks of Euro 2016 glory
Assured of a place in Euro 2016’s last four, Portugal can put their feet up for the penultimate weekend of the competition while the other teams left in battle to join them.
However, as anyone who has been keeping close tabs on proceedings across the channel will agree, Fernando Santos’ charges are more than a touch fortunate to be in this pipe-smoking position as they’re yet to win a single match within 90 minutes.
They scraped through Group F in third position having accrued the measly sum of three points.
This was a group containing such Euros heavy hitters as Hungary – making their first appearance since 1972 – the Austrians, whose only other appearance ended in Euro 2008’s group stage and major-tournament virgins Iceland, population 300k.
Those three draws preceded two others in the knockout rounds where a fancied Croatia outfit were defeated in extra time, before five expertly-taken penalties stopped Poland’s journey at the quarter-final stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to find his usual deadly range and although he has two goals for the tournament, it’s a paltry return from a Euro 2016-high 38 shots.
In the face of such an underwhelming tournament display and a misfiring Ronny, not many punters will be rushing out to back the A Seleccao for glory at 9/2, even as the only confirmed semi-finalists ahead of Wales’s tussle with Belgium.
Then again, as Panama proved by making it all the way to the 2011 Copa America final without claiming a single 90-minute victory, winning (until the bitter end) isn’t everything. The Central Americans were eventually defeated in the final.
But Portugal really should have nothing to fear, especially with vital penalty practice under their belts on the plum side of the draw. They beat most likely opponents Belgium as recently as March and are unbeaten, winning twice more, in four collisions historically.
Their only prior engagement with the Welsh was a 3-0 stroll back in 2000 and this is a country unperturbed by the pressures of long-lasting involvement in major tournaments, as they prepare for a fifth Euros semi-finals appearance in seven attempts.
The 2004 final was the closest Portugal have come, on home soil no less. The way the cookie has been crumbling so far in 2016, though, it feels like this might just be their year, especially if Ronny swaps his shooting boots for his scoring ones.
<strong>All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.</strong>