AT the start of Euro 2016 I said there would be a surprise semi-finalist … and that’s the way it’s panning out.
Croatia were mentioned as a dark horse and look nailed on to make the last four after sinking Spain to top Group C.
Holders Spain, hosts France, Germany and England are all in the same half of the draw and that’s great news for the Croats who have been cut to a best 11-1 to be crowned champions.
The draw also favours Wales who weren’t given a hope of making the last four but are now just 9-2 to do so.
Chris Coleman’s men have turned on the style when it matters and today face Northern Ireland in a last-16 tie they should win.
Having faced England Coleman couldn’t have anticipated an all-UK clash and I’m not sure it’s what he wanted. But he has Gareth Bale who has scored more goals in France than the entire Irish team.
Before the tournament Bala renamed their town Bale and what’s the odds on Wales changing their name to Bales if they go all the way.
Gareth Bale has been brilliant with a goal in each game and while Wales aren’t a one-man side without him they are so much weaker.
Wales are a best 21-20 to beat the Irish today and Bales will be heavily backed at 31-20 with BetVictor to score and he is 7-2 to net first.
The only serious alternative is Aaron Ramsey who is 19-5 at 888sport to score although Bale set up Neil Taylor for a goal in the 3-0 rout of Russia.
Michael O’Neill’s side are 10-3 at Coral to cause what would be seen as a shock while a draw in 90 minutes that would force extra time pays 11-5 at 888sport.
While Wales have Real Madrid superstar Bale the Irish goals have come from centre-half Gareth McAuley and supersub wideman Niall McGinn of Aberdeen.
Strikers Kyle Lafferty – who might be one up on Bale after having a Belfast airport named after him – and Conor Washington have been starved of service and the Irish will once again go out and make themselves hard to beat.
If Wales hit the levels they reached against Russia they’ll win and possibly to nil which pays 7-4 at McBookie and under 2.5 goals is short at 4-11.
Bale to score
Wales to win to nil