Euro 2016: Why heroic Home Nation Wales are worth a wager to go all the way
Holly Thackeray | July 2, 2016
Forget Iceland, it is Wales’ Dragons that are the darlings of Euro 2016, and the outsiders with the best chance of beating the likes of France, Portugal, Italy and Germany to the European Championship crown.
Chris Coleman’s contingent had their outright odds slashed dramatically by Coral on Friday evening, from 25/1 to just 8/1 to become champions of Europe, after their blistering 3-1 thumping of favourites Belgium.
So, as the Home Nation carry the hopes of a country on their shoulders, Coral customers should snap up that enticing outright price before it gets any shorter as their semi-final with Portugal approaches.
The Navigators are yet to win a game at these finals in normal time, a patient Portuguese tactic defiant Welsh Dragons are unlikely to wait around for, and should they sink the Iberian outfit a spot in the showpiece finale is theirs.
Able to avoid European heavyweights France, Germany and Italy along the way, history boys Wales have a smoother path to success, with anything able to happen between the final two on the night of July 10th.
So, below are a few more Welsh flutters up for grabs as this brilliant tournament nears the business end…
Back Bale to shine brightest
Few fans would deny that Gareth Bale has more than lived up to his billing as a superstar in France, sometimes dragging his Dragons through in the early stages with his set-piece nous.
Three goals and one assist make brilliant Bale the most productive player at the tournament, and arguably the best. Portugal may prove problematic to unlock, but the Wales talisman’s terrifying speed on the counter and formidable free-kicks will be something the Navigators have not yet faced in France.
Coleman’s crew are a similarly defensively sound side, happy to sit back and hit their opponents on the break. Yet, they were brave and buoyant against Belgium and looked just as lively in attack, which is where they can upset the Iberian nation, who may fall foul of biding their time.
The semi-final will pit Real Madrid clubmates (and rivals if you believe the tabloids) Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo against one another, but this attention on star man Bale can only ease the pressure on his teammates.
Los Blancos boy Bale struck 19 across all competitions at club level this campaign and has hit three in his past six caps for his Home Nation. With that in mind, why not opt for a top scorer and winner double bet with Coral? Bale to bag the most and Wales to win the tournament is available at a cool 14/1.
Though, if you reckon Bale be used as a distraction so his teammates can run riot, there are other options to overtake him. Free agent Hal Robson-Kanu, fresh from his cracking Cruyff turn against Belgium and one behind Bale on two goals, can be had in another scorer and winner double with Wales at 66/1.
Dragons to at least reach the final
Looking at the traits which have made teams successful in this tournament, Wales possess most of them. Defensively sound and diligent due to skipper Ashley Williams’ commanding performances at both ends of the pitch and Coleman’s canny organisation, the Dragons have conceded just three goals compared to semis opponents Portugal’s five.
Wales have also shown resilience, coming from behind to beat both Slovakia and Belgium. The Navigators too have a taste for late winners, but struggled against Iceland, Hungary and Austria – teams they should have easily beaten on paper.
With a 10 goal tournament tally so far, the Welsh look most likely to outscore their rivals who lag behind on six strikes. That haul form the Dragons is the second most a British team has ever bagged in a major tournament, though Coleman’s contingent can still surpass England’s 11 in their World Cup winning year of 1966 – which is surely a good omen for success.
Although there have been excellent performances as expected from captain Williams, ruthless Bale and top plotter Aaron Ramsey, it is the game raising from other squad components to makes Wales more than the sum of their parts that has propelled them this far.
This team spirit, with Wayne Hennessey, Sam Vokes, Robson-Kanu, Jonny Williams, Joe Allen and co more than pulling their weight, is something the Dragons have in common with Italy and punters can plump for the Azzurri and Wales at 11/1 to be the finalists.
Hosts France and Wales, meanwhile, are 9/2 to set up a showpiece finale scuffle, with Germany and the Dragons 6/1. Or, a real outside shout of 40/1 will get you Coleman’s crew and fellow underdogs Iceland to contest the crown. The choice is yours.