Greek inspiration to help Wales turn tide of misfortune for debutant semi-finalists

Greek inspiration to help Wales turn tide of misfortune for debutant semi-finalists

Wales provided a Euro 2016 shock to rival Iceland’s eliminating of England in overcoming Belgium to reach the semi-finals.

Their 3-1 win ensured them a place in history as the joint-best debutants at the tournament (they equaled Sweden’s performance at Euro ’92, though in truth, the effort of Chris Coleman’s men is far superior given they achieved it in a competition of 24 teams, as opposed to eight), while their date with Portugal in Lyon will represent the first time they’ve graced the final four of any event.

Understandably, their opponents are favourites to prevail, with a price of 23/20 saying Cristiano Ronaldo and co win their first match of Euro 2016 inside 90 minutes.

Punters can get 21/10 with bwin that the spoils are shared in regulation time, leaving Wales as 27/10 underdogs to win and 29/20 to qualify for the final.

A disappointed Cristiano Ronaldo drops to his haunches
A disappointed Cristiano Ronaldo drops to his haunches

Portugal are obviously a beatable adversary – as stated, they’re yet to win a match without recourse to added time or penalties and, much like Wales, they’re a team built around one supremely gifted individual.

Despite this, it won’t just be the odds Coleman’s troops are battling, but the rotten record of rookie semi-finalists in major tournaments is also working against them too.

In European Championship and World Cup history since Sweden’s semi bow in ’92, five of the six last-four protagonists lost their maiden match on this stage.

It’s a damning statistic, but peering through the gloom, Wales can extract a modicum of optimism from the fact that their first semi has fallen in the Euros.

If this was the World Cup, they’d be doomed.

At USA 1994, a Hristo Stoichkov-inspired Bulgaria reached the equivalent checkpoint for the first time. They beat Argentina, Mexico and Germany en route, but had their dreams snuffed out by Italy.

Four years on Croatia made their last-four bow, but succumbed to hosts and eventual winners France, who had unlikely brace-bagger Lillian Thuram to thank for their 2-1 win.

In 2002 there were two greenhorn semi-finalists. Neither South Korea or Turkey had never been among the final quartet at a World Cup before (the latter had never advanced so far in any competition). Both were to endure 1-0 defeats though, losing to Germany and Brazil respectively.

It makes for grim reading, but the prospects of debutants aren’t quite so bleak at the Euros.

Sweden lost their first match at this stage, but put up a fight in going down 3-2 to Germany, while Greece, champions in 2004, actually won their first foray 1-0 after extra-time against the Czech Republic.

Wales are 11/1 to mirror the Greeks and beat Portugal after an additional 30 minutes.