Wales v Northern Ireland – Parc des Princes at 17:00 live on BBC One
Considering this is Wales’ first major international tournament in 58 years and Northern Ireland’s first in 34 years, the fact they have even made it to the knockout stages is a massive achievement for both nations. They now meet in the last 16 at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday evening, both aiming to reach their first European Championship quarter final.
The Dragons were drawn in a tough group, consisting of Slovakia, Russia and England, with the Three Lions expecting to comfortably top table and sail through to the last 16 with an easier draw. The Welsh were expected to fight it out for 2nd place, or even qualify as one of 6 third place finishers. Chris Coleman had other ideas!
An opening game win against Slovakia put Wales in a healthy position, needing just a point to all but secure a place in the last 16. They met England in their second match and led at half time, before a Jamie Vardy equaliser and Daniel Sturridge goal in injury time meant they needed a result against the Russians. Despite defending well against England, which was their strength in qualification, the result was fair.
Wales then put in arguably one of the performances of the tournament so far, demolishing Russia 3-0 in an excellent display of attacking football. Ramsay, Taylor and Bale were on the score sheet, with the worlds most expensive player having a superb match and tournament so far. There is no doubt he is their star player but Wales also showed they are a team with lots of ability and talent.
They come into this match topping a lot of the stats tables, with 37 attempts of which a huge 57% (21) have been on target. It’s not surprising with those stats they have scored the most goals (6) along with Hungary and have the joint leading scorer in Gareth Bale. They will come into this match on a high and are rightfully favourites, yet look to be a bit of value at 2.08.
Northern Ireland surpassed all expectations in their qualifying campaign to book themselves a place in the finals and were then handed a very tough group of Poland, Germany and the Ukraine.
They opened their tournament with a 1-0 defeat against Poland in a typically solid defensive performance but just couldn’t hang on. They didn’t offer anything going forward so to defeat the Ukraine in their second match 2-0 in a fine display was a shock to many. Another strong defensive display against Germany, limited the world champions to win by a single goal, which ultimately won them a place in the last 16, having a better goal difference than Albania and Turkey.
In complete contrast to Wales, Norn Iron hold up the goal attempts table with just 17, however 8 of those were on target. Their strengths are certainly in defence and I believe they will put in a very compact and organised performance against Wales, looking to nick a goal from a set piece.
With another match that’s set to be ruled by the defences, a low scoring affair is expected. All 3 of Northern Ireland’s matches saw 2 goals or fewer, whilst all 3 of Wales’ games saw 3 goals. The Asian goals line is 1.75 for this one and I think the bookies have got it just about right.
For my recommendation, I’m backing Wales -0.5 on the Asian Handicap betting market. They have been excellent offensively and against a weak attacking side, their defence should comfortably stand up to the test. It could be tight, as it was when the 2 sides drew 1-1 in a pre-tournament friendly, but the Dragons were without Gareth Bale for that one. The Welsh edge this one for me and are good value at 2.08 to do so.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Wales -0.5 at 2.08
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