Wales v Northern Ireland – Parc des Princes at 17:00 live on BBC One
On Saturday afternoon, Wales take on Northern Ireland in this Round of 16 tie, a match that has been dubbed the ‘Battle of Britain’. Both Wales and Northern Ireland had never reached the European Championship finals before 2016 and so this is all new territory for both sides and yet the dream continues!
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Wales are one of the dark horses of the competition so far, after finishing top of Group B on 6 points, ahead of England who only finished second with 5 points.
Despite losing 2-1 to their UK rivals England in their 2nd group game, 2 impressive victories over Slovakia (2-1) and Russia (3-0) were enough to send them through to the Round of 16.
Wales conceded 3 goals in the group stage and there are definitely gaps for Northern Ireland to exploit at the back, but it’s Real Madrid’s number 11 that could cause all the problems for Michael O’Neill’s side.
Gareth Bale as expected has been the stand out player for Wales and is the joint top-scorer of the competition alongside Spain’s Alvaro Morata with 3 goals.
Northern Ireland qualified for the Round of 16 as one of the best third placed teams, despite being handed one of the toughest groups of the competition which included Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
O’Neill’s side shocked the majority with a surprise 2-0 win over the Ukraine, with goals from Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn keeping the Northern Irish dream alive!
Northern Ireland progressed to the last 16, despite losing 2 matches in Group C against Poland (1-0) and Germany (1-0), although on both occasions they kept the deficit to a minimum and looked defensively solid in a highly competitive group.
In the end 3 points were enough to make it through to the knockouts and praise has to be given to goalkeeper Michael McGovern, who has been Northern Ireland’s player of the tournament so far. Without some of his outstanding saves against Germany in particular, his country may have exited the competition early and so he has a massive part to play in his sides’ continued involvement.
The most recent meeting between these 2 teams was back in March in a friendly which finished 1-1. An 89th minute penalty scored by Simon Church cancelled out Craig Cathcart’s strike and helped Wales earn a draw.
In regards to this match, Wales are the firm favourites to go through to the quarter-finals, although the passion that this spirited Northern Irish side possess will mean that it won’t be easy for the Welsh! I am expecting a tight game, which won’t necessarily be decided in normal time and therefore I recommend backing Northern Ireland +0.5, as I think a low scoring draw is on the cards after 90 minutes of play.
Wales significantly rely on Gareth Bale and although it’s paid off so far, I wouldn’t rule O’Neill’s side out of causing an upset, as they’ve impressed me during the group stage of this competition.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Northern Ireland +0.5 @ 1.88 with 188BET
Prices correct at time of writing.