Poland (+300) vs Portugal (+125), Draw (+195)
A place in the Euro 2016 semifinals will be at stake this Thursday when Poland (2-0-2) and Portugal (1-0-3) clash at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille (3:00 PM Eastern).
At this point, reaching the final four will be a huge achievement for either side. While the Portuguese would have fancied their chances to reach the semis at the outset – residing in a very soft Group F with Iceland, Hungary, and Austria – they failed to win a single game in the round-robin portion, drawing with all three sides.
Expectations were at an all-time low for the perennial underachievers heading into a Round of 16 meeting with Croatia, who won their group by topping defending champion Spain. But Portugal finally put in a solid defensive effort and advanced 1-0 on an extra-time goal. The team didn’t surrender a shot on goal in the first 90 minutes, a far cry from the squad that gave up three goals to a mediocre Hungary in the Group Stage.
The Portugal offense was nearly non-existent, however. Like Croatia, they didn’t have a shot on target through 90 minutes. Those concerns dissipated once Ricardo Quaresma buried a rebound off a Cristiano Ronaldo shot late in the second extra-time period.
Poland, meanwhile, were in a tougher quartet with Germany, Ukraine, and Northern Ireland. They beat Ukraine and N. Ireland by identical 1-0 scores and drew 0-0 with Germany, finishing runner-up in the group and setting up a Round of 16 clash with Switzerland.
Switzerland were finally able to crack the stout Polish defense, but it took the goal of the tournament to do so. That goal leveled the match at one after Poland took an early lead on a from Jakub Blaszczykowski (38′). The Poles then advanced on penalties (5-4).
With Ronaldo, Quaresma, and Nani on the pitch, Portugal certainly have the talent to put the ball in the net against anyone. But Ronaldo has only managed to score in one game in the tournament (against the porous Hungarians) and hasn’t looked like the dominant player who suits up for Real Madrid on a weekly basis.
Portugal have the slight edge in the head-to-head, going 4-3-3 in the last ten against Poland. But all four of their games at this tournament have been level through 90 minutes. In my view, there’s a strong possibility of another 90-minute (and 120-minute) draw.
Portugal are -0.5 favorites in the handicap; they haven’t shown enough to earn that favorite status. Poland +0.5 has a -125 price, and you can collect with a Polish win or a draw over 120 minutes. That’s the best value on the board, in my view.
Pick: Poland +0.5 (+125).
(Photo Credit: Dagur Brynjólfsson (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])